The holidays, stress and mindfulness

I'm somewhat disconnected from the mad rush of Christmas, because my family and I have chosen to spend it this year focusing on creating small but meaningful experiences throughout the month of December, rather than the giving of many gifts.

Christmas is of course one of the biggest holidays of the year for many of us.

A time of joy and celebration and yet it can also be a time of emotional worry. The mad rush of last minute shopping, waiting in huge lines, feeling frustrated, having frayed nerves, family conflict, obligations and overeating...did you know these are actually great opportunities to practice mindfulness?

We spend so much time leading up to the holidays thinking about everyone else: shopping for gifts, planning around others' schedules, and trying to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone.  Then we wake up the day after Christmas a bit foggy, barely remembering what we ate, who got what, or if we took time to be really present and notice the gift of each moment.

Hope you enjoy these three mindful ways to make your holidays more peaceful. Always remembering, it's not stress that's bad, it's how we interpret our physiological responses that makes all the difference to our peace, happiness and health.

#1 name it to tame it

During the holiday season you may notice thoughts, feelings or even memories pulling at your attention. They may be subtle and fleeting but still significant enough to dampen your festive spirits. When you notice your mind is wandering, acknowledge it by labeling it (like 'worrying' or 'feeling angry'). Dr. Dan Siegel, professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine calls this action "name it to tame it". Try not to judge yourself. Be kind and curious and return your attention to whatever you are doing - like wrapping your gifts or standing in a queue of shoppers. We know from research that regardless of whether our thoughts are pleasant or unpleasant, mind wandering is a root causes of stress, unhappiness and reduces our focus. So whenever you can, bring your attention to where you are and what you are doing, notice sounds, sensations and feel your feet on the ground.

#2 Notice the little things

When you wake up on Christmas morning, take a few deep breaths before getting of bed. Then take the time to fully notice the little things, the smells, textures and tastes of Christmas. Each cookie, cuddle and gift. A great way to notice the little things is by engaging your senses. How do the snacks look in your hand? How do they smell? How do they feel in your mouth? Notice the beauty of how a gift is wrapped. How does it feel to pull off the paper? Bring awareness to how this gift came to be in your hand. Where it might have come from, how it was packaged, shipped to a store, and purchased.

#3 Be kind to yourself

Mindfulness is not only about compassion for others, but also for ourselves. Therefore, have the intention to be kind to yourself. It's important that we have a little self-compassion. Make a point of just noticing how you might be putting too much pressure on yourself, or beating yourself up when things don't go as planned, or feeling like you ate too much. In those moments just remember to take a few deep breaths. These are just thoughts. They will pass like clouds in the sky. And don't be so hard on yourself...where you are right now, is exactly where you should be.

Feel free to share your thoughts and tips in the comments box below....and if you think others might enjoy this post, please share it!