During the holidays come the beautiful lights, a decorated tree, festivities, and of course, additional stress! Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to move through this season without having your family question your sanity, or you possibly questioning the sanity of your family. 😊
Simply stated, mindfulness is the practice of becoming consciously aware of your current self. It helps us get back into our natural state of being. This allows us to push the reset button, providing balance and awareness in effort to remove the noise and chaos that goes on around us.
It is a practice of living in the now moments—releasing the past and not being stressed or fearful of the future.
The old saying: we create our tomorrow by what we do today has never been truer than it is today.
Let’s take a few moments to recognize a few of the primary holiday stressors and validate your feelings toward helping you realize you are not alone.
We all recognize that the holidays come every year, beginning in November with Thanksgiving, and moving through the New Year. It is over a month of additional stress we encounter and place upon ourselves.
Below are a few of the top holiday stressors many if not all of us face each year.
Can you relate to any of these stressors?
- Feeling as though we can’t get it all done—shopping, cooking, entertaining, being pulled in too many directions—work, kids, family
- Incorporating the thinking of, “I can’t afford it; it’s not enough,” and/or, we spend over our budget and potentially go into debt
- Setting high expectations or feeling overwhelmed. If something goes wrong, we have the thinking this is not how it was supposed to be.
- Generates increased anxiety and stress trying to recreate the Norman Rockwell or Martha Stewart vision. In turn, leads to disappointment, feelings of failure, lower confidence and self-worth
- Concern with family dynamics—feeling as though we must tolerate hypocrisy, shaming, and potential arguments
- Feelings of loneliness and sadness from being away from family and friends, possible loss of a loved one who is not here this year
- Navigating the crowds, long lines, and traffic which bring out the worst qualities in us such as: frustration, stress, anger, agitation, and anxiety
- Feelings of exhaustion—physical and mental. We may stop taking care of ourselves by developing poor eating habits, adding on holiday pounds and extra sugars, drinking, or partying in excess, and getting less rest.
Those are the primary stressors that we seem to encounter during the holidays every year. However, this year has been a year unlike any other! This year has brought a pandemic which has created more stress for all of us over the course of 2020. When we couple holiday stressors with a year’s worth of stress from the pandemic, we need to recognize that now is the most important time we have to incorporate positive changes for our lives, our health, and for our families.
In addition, I recently read some heartbreaking 2020 Dear Santa letters from children who asked….
- Please find a cure of COVID19 and save the world
- My mom is dealing with a death in our family and I don’t want to put pressure on her, but I would like a laptop for school as it would help, and I could still be strong for my mom
- This has been a tough year on my grandpa and daddy and my mommy is having a tough time, can you send her some happiness.
Certainly, these requests provide pause to consider how the stress from this year has not only affected us, but also how it has affected our children.
The stress of 2020 coupled with stress from the holidays is affecting all of us physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. No one is immune to the events that have transpired this year. We may have lost loved ones, lost our jobs, school is inconsistent, we may be trying to work from home while caring for our children or an elderly family member. Moreover, the holidays have now arrived with their own stressors mentioned above.
As a result, if you have not yet heard or begun to practice mindfulness, this holiday season is the most opportune time to incorporate grace, gratitude, and to recognize that you are enough. Once you begin your journey of mindfulness, you will realize how much of an inspiration this can provide for your life and on the lives of those around you. As you know, we can never underestimate the power of planting a seed.
In addition, here are few reasons that may help persuade you to begin practicing mindfulness as part of your daily routine.
- Reduces Stress
- Strengthens your immune function
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces chronic pain
- Improves sleep
- Improves concentration, focus, and mental clarity
- Become more self-aware
- Inspires empathy and compassion
How can we begin to implement a daily practice of mindfulness?
- Find a quiet place and sit down. Turn off social media, email, phone, television, etc.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes. As you grow your mindfulness practice you may wish to increase the time to 10-15 min.
- Sit comfortably in a chair with both feet on the floor. This helps to ground you.
- Take 3 deep cleansing and relaxing breathes. As you inhale, feel the oxygen and expansion of your body. As you exhale, slowly count to 4 in your mind as you release the air. This provides subtle control of your breath and allows you to feel the deflation and relaxation of your body
- Shut your eyes and allow yourself to focus on the present moment. Allow yourself to observe the present moment without judgment.
- Practice letting go of worrisome thoughts and allow yourself to focus on what is going on in your body at that moment. Focus on your breathing and/or your heartbeat and allow yourself to be present in the now moment. Subsequently, you may choose to focus on subtle sounds such as the humming of the heat or air. If you are outside, focus on the sun or breeze on your face, birds chirping, etc.
- Once you have finished, allow yourself to take a couple more relaxing breaths and possibly a stretch. Enjoy the peace of the moment.
- With continued practice, you may increase your time to 10-15 minutes which will provide more benefit.
- Do not judge or shame yourself if your mind begins to wander. Just learn to be aware when it happens and bring yourself back to the present moment.
Above all, mindfulness is a practice. To improve, mindfulness takes practice just like improving your putting, playing the guitar, lifting weights, etc. As you know, practice improves your stamina. Incorporating a regular practice of mindfulness will definitely help you improve your stamina, focus, and energy. Consequently, with the stress we have swirling around us today, I believe we could use as much positivity, stamina, focus and energy as we can get….wouldn’t you agree?
In conclusion, as you begin your consistent practice of mindfulness, you will enhance your ability to refocus the the mind when it starts to run away with stressful, fearful, worrisome thoughts. Secondly, as you increase awareness of your thoughts, you will also gain improved focus to complete the task at hand. In addition, you will be more cognizant of how you treat yourself and others thru gentle kindness, empathy, gratitude, and compassion.
In short, a positive, gentle reminder: as we choose to improve, develop, and transform ourselves, we inspire a ripple effect of positivity to those around us.
I wish you a Beautiful Day filled with Love, Light, Peace, Gratitude, and of course……Mindfulness.
Namaste’ my beautiful friends–
Terry J. Walker, M. A., is a Success Coach and Trainer, Motivational Speaker and Author. She is the owner of Inspire and Motivate, IAM, LLC and the founder of Bridging the Gap Training and Soul Stretching Success Principles.
To find out more about her books, trainings and coaching, visit her website: iamterryjwalker.com or bridgingthegaptraining.com
Launching Jan. 2021—
Bridging the Gap Virtual Training– providing tools and techniques for parents and educators to inspire confidence, socialization, communication and positive self development of our children. Let’s all begin working together towards bridging the gap!
New book coming Jan. 2021: Promoting Positive Self Esteem in Children