Mindfulness During the Holidays
The holidays season is in full swing. A time of year to appreciate one another, and focus on kindness, love, connection, family and friends. For many, there may be expectations (or perceived expectations) to create a magical holiday for your loved ones. This in turn, can potentially make it the least wonderful time of year, if not the most stressful. In fact, some people rate Christmas as being the most stressful time of the year. The holidays mean something different to everyone and it is often linked to past experiences. We also often try to recreate positive memories from childhood and sometimes start new traditions and experiences. Here are some tips to add mindfulness to your holidays:
1. Guard your mind from the “Perfect Holiday”
The polished and festive images you see on social media and on TV about how a “perfect holiday” should look, like can send you into a deep valley of discontent and unhappiness. Just remember, your decorations do not have to be all manually crafted. Your presents do not have to be all ready and perfectly wrapped weeks in advance. Your holiday meal does not have to be fully homemade. You do not have to send cards to your extended family. If you enjoy doing all those things, and it gives you pleasure, that’s fine. But if not, it is totally fine not to. Give yourself permission to stay out of the competition and do whatever works for you.
2. Managing expectations (including yours)
The holiday season can make people feel a lack of control. We may feel at the mercy of our relatives and family traditions. But here is your gentle reminder that you have a say. The key is to take time to figure out what you want and allow this to manifest. What if everyone’s expectations, including your own, were shared ahead of the holiday season? It would probably make the whole process more manageable.
Here’s how to do this:
Once you know who you will be spending the holidays with, ask everyone to play a game in which they write down three things that are the most important to them about the holiday season. Make sure to include yourself in this process and write down your own three things too. Set aside time to discuss what everyone wrote and come up with a prioritization that works. Know that while many may not get all three of their priorities, they may get one or top two.
This will deepen the sense of connection amongst those who will be sharing the festivities. You’ll be amazed to notice how people will take this opportunity to be kind and more empathetic so that everyone can have an enjoyable time.
3. Accept and ask for help
If you are hosting, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it all by yourself. If a relative or a friend offers to help, accept and give them something to do. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help and delegate. It doesn’t matter whether you had done it all by yourself in previous years. Often, we assume someone else will reject our request for help but you’ll be surprised to find out most people say yes. The secret to successfully delegating is to accept that the tasks will not be perfectly done, or exactly as you would have done it yourself. And that is also ok.
4. Plan Mindfully
Don’t try to memorize all the things you need to prepare. Use to-do lists. Another helpful goal planning technique would be to plan backwards: identify the outcome you want and write down all the steps you need to get it done. If you delegate some tasks beforehand, keep track of who and what you assigned. While you plan, don’t forget to schedule in some self-care time for yourself. This would include a time where you can relax, indulge with your favorite activities. Remember, the holidays are a time for kindness and compassion - but not only towards others, towards yourself too!
5. Mindful experiences
There are so many holiday joys over the festive season: decorations, special foods and drinks, and maybe even some snow. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all that we need to accomplish that we forget to enjoy the present moment. How could you mindfully enjoy those experiences? Here is just one mindful experience to try with some tips for you. You can try incorporating mindfulness into other areas of the season and see how you feel.
Mindfully Drink. Some specialty drinks for the season include hot apple cider, eggnog, or even a celebratory champagne. Try asking yourself these questions the next time you take a sip:
Before your first sip:
What scents am I noticing?
What thoughts, if any, is this mindful experience bringing for me right now?
After your first sip:
How does my throat feel, drinking this drink? Is it warm, cold?
What flavors do I notice? Is it sweet?
What thoughts is this mindful experience bringing now?
It is amazing what adding mindfulness to the holidays can bring. Mindfulness allows us to be present and also make memories or experiences we can connect to through our senses. Take time to truly immerse yourself into the holiday spirit in the ways that work for you and remember to enjoy (even if it is just a moment). Happy holidays to you and yours.