Mindful

It is officially the holiday season! During this time of year there can be so much pressure that unfortunately the joy, magic, and meaning of the season is lost, often replaced by stress. Especially now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it is hard to ignore the almost instantaneous rush of frenetic energy that ensues as we near the close of the calendar year.

It is more than possible though to not only survive the holiday season, but to even thrive and connect to your particular observance in a deeper and more profound way. Here are some common stressors that pop up this time this year, and mindful antidotes to help you through the discomfort.

1) Demands on Time

In December, our schedules often fill up quickly with work and personal holiday parties. These back-to-back parties start to feel overwhelming as we try to juggle them with all of our other commitments.

Also, creating the holiday experience we desire for our loved ones and ourselves takes planning. It often starts to feel like we are chickens running around with no heads collecting recipes, buying and wrapping gifts, inviting guests, hosting, traveling, cooking, cleaning, buying trees (or menorahs!), and decorating.

Antidote: Treat yourself! You do not need to say yes to everything. Giving and giving without stopping is not an altruistic notion. It is important to be mindful of when we might need refuelling and to allow that to happen. Self-care can mean many things, but it can be as simple as a night to ourselves that includes a bath and a good meal—cooked by someone else!

2) Loneliness During the Holidays

There is an immense amount of pressure to please the people we love with the gifts that we think they will love. Instead of a joyful endeavor, gift giving becomes a chore, and we often become resentful and unloved if we do not receive something equally meaningful in return.

Pressure can also manifest by way of the longing to spend the holidays with those we love, and those we desire to love. For many, this may create feelings of loneliness.

Antidote: Donate your time to help those less fortunateThe holidays are a particularly poignant time to practice the art of compassion, to think of others needs before our own. There is great opportunity to give to, and establish meaningful connections with, those who don’t have as many resources as we do. Giving doesn’t have to be monetary or a physical gift. Giving comes in many forms, including smiles, time, and emotional support.

3) Expectations of Perfection

This time of year is ripe with the expectations we put upon ourselves to get it just “right.” Things have to look, taste, feel, and be a certain way. We start to get into this mind space where things have to be perfect, which of course, is not possible. It’s how we deal with this realization that determines our well-being.

While it is nice to take the time to create a mindful, aesthetically, and gustatorily pleasing experience, we often get caught up in the trap of perfection. Not only does this make the holiday journey feel less joyful, but we also set ourselves up to experience a lot of disappointment.

Antidote: Reflect on the meaning of the holidaysIt is hard to stop and smell the roses at any time of year, and it is especially easy to get caught up in the commercial version of what the holiday season means today. But taking the time to mindfully reflect on what matters, whether it be our religion or tradition, or even the healing power of love, helps us to keep our perspective as the year draws to a close.

4) The Indulge/Guilt Cycle

We often seem to let all notions of wellness and health fall by the wayside during this time of year. The problem is not only are we not staying healthy, but we are also setting ourselves up for feelings of guilt and self-deprecation.

A thriving life depends on moderation, and this concept particularly applies when we are inundated with mass amounts of food and drink. By eating mindfully, we can keep our minds, bodies, and brains healthy without the self-defeating thoughts of “we are so bad” “we are so fat,” etc.

Antidote: Take time to enjoy all the flavors of the holiday season. There are five (A,B,C,D,E) basic ways to begin a mindful eating practice:

1. Ask

  • Why am I eating now?
  • What am I eating now?
  • What else am I doing now that may be distracting?

2. Be grateful
3. Chew, and then chew again
4. Dine (don’t just eat)
5. Engage your attention

5) Stress and Family Anxiety

Family stress shows up in many ways. This has taken on a new tone this year, given that many families made different political choices.

While there might actually be very real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of our family, we sometimes get caught up in fuelling the fire, rather than abating it.

However, most of the stress and anxiety around family is often anticipatory. Based on not-so-pleasant past experiences, combined with the upcoming impending mix of different personalities, we start to worry about family dysfunction rearing its ugly head. While there might actually be very real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of our family, we sometimes get caught up in fuelling the fire, rather than abating it.

Antidote: Engage in gratitude. Take the time to step back and bear witness to all that you have, to count your blessings, as they say. Gratitude goes a long way when it comes to overall wellness. During this time of year, a sense of gratitude can easily fall by the wayside as indulgence and the idea of “more” and “merrier” are front and center.

So, while in the midst of the tumult of the holiday season, try to re-center by consciously being grateful for the multiple aspects of this season, and our loved ones, that we are blessed to engage with.

Jennifer Wolkin

Jennifer Wolkin is a NYC-based licensed clinical health and neuropsychologist, writer, speaker, and professor. She recently founded BrainCurves, an initiative to inspire accurate and accessible mind-body-brain wellness ideas for all women and all of our supporters.

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