Beautiful decorations, holiday parades, gifts for young and old, festive parties, shared meals with family and friends – it’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s also the most stressful time of the year. It is easy to get overwhelmed with our lengthy to-do lists. While holidays are about giving to others, it’s important to also give back to ourselves and our bodies. When we take the time to practice self-care, we are also building strength and energy that allows us to reach out and care for those around us. In my November newsletter, I shared positive affirmations and tips to add positive vibes to your life. Now I want to dive into some practices that cultivate mindfulness to further alleviate stress, both in the mind and the body.
What are your obligations this holiday season? Is there anything that you can cancel or skip? Even if the answer is no, you can slow down just a bit. Before you get out of your car and run into the supermarket, take a couple of deep breaths. When traffic isn’t budging on your way to your partner’s holiday party, breathe slowly and deeply, trying to match the lengths of your inhales and exhales.
You can slow down when eating, too. There will always be way more food at the dinner table than your gut needs or wants. Fill your plate with nutritious foods. Take bites slowly. Chew each one well. Eating in this way will allow you time to enjoy what you’re eating, rather than wishing you were diving into that stuffing. It will also help you to more easily recognize when you are satisfied and eliminate the desire for a second helping.
Live in the moment
Recognize that the presence of the people you are with is truly a gift. Do yourself (and them) the favor of being present with them, rather than worrying about your to-do list. Each moment with your friends and family is one to be cherished. By living in the now rather than thinking about tomorrow, you can enjoy what is happening and not stress about what will happen.
This one is so key that I am repeating it, despite including it in my newsletter. Take a few minutes at the end or beginning of each day to list the things for which you are grateful. The items on the list can be big or small. In fact, having small but specific items on your list will help you to more easily notice the little moments that lighten up your day. Over time, this will result in an overall brighter outlook on life.
This can also help you resist temptation in the kitchen. Love chocolate cookies but know that you are sensitive to gluten? Expressing gratitude for the delicious in-season mandarin oranges will make missing out on your favorite treat much easier.
Forgive yourself and move on
Don’t beat yourself up for the things that you do and do not do this holiday season. For example, if you indulged in that chocolate cookie even though the delicious in-season mandarin oranges were in a bowl right next to it, it’s okay! Don’t let that one choice bring down your whole month. Eat that cookie slowly, savor each bite, and write it on your gratitude list. Then forgive yourself and move on.
Or, for example, if you decide to opt out of a party or tradition because you know it causes you stress each year, don’t give yourself a guilt trip about it. You made that choice for the right reasons, and there is no reason not to feel good about it and move on.
You’re not alone
The stress of the holiday season gets to almost everyone. The odds are good that among your family and friends, you can find someone else who is trying to practice self-care. Take that person as an accountability partner and confidant.