‘Tis the season for holiday giving, endless online shopping...and stress as we try and finish up that last project, work to secure that last-minute gift for our secret santa and figure out how we’re going to use that last PTO day, but still manage to get all of your work completed. Sound familiar? Here are a few ways to help manage that stress.
Sometimes it seems hard to find the time to take a break and just breathe. If this holiday season is causing you anxiety, make sure you take five minutes here and there to relax and breathe. Find a quiet room, give your husband the kids and shut the door and consciously pay attention to the sensations of breath. You will breathe around 22,000 times a day. Pay attention to a few of them and you might just find some peace and calm in those moments. The best part is your breath is always with you. While there are many wonderful apps to help guide you through a simple meditation on the breath you really just need your non-judgmental, kind, and curious attention to your breathing.
A simple way to do this is to choose an anchor to focus your attention on the rhythm and cycles of breath in one of 3 places:
One could be the nostrils of your nose (try sensing the coolness on the in-breath and slight warmth as the breath exhales). You may also try observing and sensing the rising and the falling by placing attention on the chest, or gently placing your awareness on the diaphragm (you can even place your hands on the stomach to feel the rhythm and movement of the breath).
Your breath is with you in crazy long check out lines, traffic jams, parking lots, and even when you are dealing with happy people & irritable people, Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch...and so forth.
Walking endlessly in the mall, parking lots, or store aisles. Try taking some time to connect with your feet. Bring a gentle awareness to the effort and anatomy (joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, skin and other connective tissue, or a felt sense of weight, heaviness or lightness) that is activated and felt to Lift, Move, and Place the feet as you walk. You can try this walking from your car to a store, or from the store to your car, walking to the bathroom, or the copier in your office.
Amazingly your feet are with you everywhere you go so at nearly anytime you can connect with the sensations of the lower legs in movement, and be curious about the thoughts, feelings, and stories that enter you awareness in each moment. Remember to greet them all with a kind and nonjudgmental attention, acknowledge whatever arises, and let it go. It can have a profoundly grounding affect and is one of my personal favorite meditations.
For even better results try walking outdoors or in nature. Nature has an amazing way of nourishing us, so look at the sunshine and clouds if it’s available, feel the wind, and soak it all in with all your senses.
SELF-COMPASSION & LOVE.
We give gifts to others and are often generous as well, so during this holiday season try being generous with you. It is not actually selfish. Two simple words with a powerful message. “Be kind,” not only to others but to yourself. Practicing self-compassion, which by definition is meeting difficulty with kindness, can help you be more resilient. Since we are likely to face greater stressors during the holidays learning to be more resilient can only help us get back to where we would like to be.
Self-compassion can be practiced by offering yourself a hug, a pat on the back, or even placing your hands or fist on your heart. In our loving kindness practice we can also offer ourselves some words or a phrase. One I like to use particularly when I am feeling vulnerable or having a moment of weakness is “May I be strong,” or “May I be brave.” Others you may choose are wish yourself happiness, safety, peace, joy… you get the idea. Have fun with this practice and make it relevant to you and your situation… and “May you be well.”
Another form of love you may wish to offer yourself this holiday season is the gift of forgiveness, for yourself or someone else. It takes an exceptionally strong and emotionally wise person to forgive, especially someone whom we might feel could never deserve it, or maybe that person is you. But forgiveness is for you, not for them. When you forgive someone you give yourself the permission and freedom to move on and construct a more positive outcome without the emotional baggage, self-loathing, shame or hate. A few quick quotes for your contemplation:
I can have peace of mind only when I forgive rather than judge.
Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
RECONNECT WITH FRIENDS.
Quite often in our technologically driven world, in the confines of social media, and through our personal digital device we can become distracted, isolated, and disconnected from the people, nature, and the world around us. In our mindfulness classes we ask people to leave their cell phones in their car or kindly turn off their electronic devices. This request is can be difficult for some, even for a couple hours, and inevitably someone forgets.
Some have made the conscious decision to put down the phone for a day, such as “tech free Tuesdays” ...etc. So compromise this holiday season and...
Use your amazing google machine or mobile device to reconnect with an old friend or family member and then set aside the device and set down face to face over a coffee or tea. If this is not possible then carve out time to be with a significant other and give yourself the freedom and space to be truly present with one another. See if it is possible to notice the impulse to reach for your device and then allow that impulse to pass and return to the face to face interaction. Be open, and observe what happens when you are truly present.
All too often in our minds we complain, blame others, keep score, pass judgments, and fail to see the beautiful and positive people and things around us. Take the time to give thanks for the people in our lives, for they are there for a reason. Life is a spectrum and can have a humorous and sometimes cruel way of teaching us lessons, and yet there are always lesson to learn.
Remember, the intention behind Christmas and the holiday seasons no matter what tradition or beliefs you have is meant to bring people together, to be unifying rather than divisive. So experiment and be generous, welcoming, open, honest, sincere, warm, loving, and kind.
Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
-Franklin P. Jones
Set the intention to see the good. Acknowledge the goodness in others. Life is imperfect, and so are we, but there is always something to be grateful for if we allow ourselves to see it. Stressors big and small can be reduced when we see how blessed we truly are.
No matter where you are in life or what is happening this holiday season notice and identify what you are grateful for in this moment and this day. Live well!