How to reduce holiday stress and bring mindfulness into the holiday season

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The news of New South Wales’ lockdown has not been received well. We’ve all had a difficult year and the anticipation of the holidays was what many of us were looking forward to. As one of my friends shared with me recently, it has completely changed how she feels about the holidays.

I found out because she posted on Facebook about her disappointment over the sudden lockdown, and how she had been looking forward to spending time with her family.

I gave her a quick call to see how she was doing. When she answered, she mentioned she was mixing up some batter. Over the sounds of her kids screaming and a dog barking, she sounded like she would break down at any moment.

I took this as an opportunity to help her focus on what she was doing.

I asked her what she was prepping and made her really think about that batter she was mixing! After a few minutes, she was so focussed on the batter and explaining it to me that I didn't hear an ounce of stress in her voice. It’s like she had forgotten about her holiday stress (to some extent, at least).

Holidays, as much as we anticipate them, can be stressful.

Depending on what you’re doing and what kind of family you have, it can also be a time of anxiety, disappointment, and loneliness. While many of us try to paint a happy picture, we may end up feeling isolated or burdened.

Mindfulness is as useful during the holidays as it is during the rest of the year. If you’re finding this season a little difficult, let’s dive into how mindfulness can help you manage your stress and navigate your emotions.

Learn to manage your internal world even in the toughest circumstances

Ask yourself how you feel or what emotional and physical state you are in when you are at your best.

What I’ve realised is that the answer tends to stay the same for the most part. Physically, you feel relaxed. Mentally, your mind is clear and focussed. You’re not worried, full of doubt, or frantic. Emotionally, you tend to be openhearted and connected as opposed to closed or fearful.

In the ‘The Mindful Leader’, Michael explains this quite well.

He says that you need to learn to manage your internal world, regardless of what happens in the external world. He explains how being dependent on external conditions for inner wellbeing gives you constant, underlying angst.

You have no control over your external world—nobody does. That’s why it’s best not to tie your internal wellbeing to something so out of your control. One way you can achieve this kind of mindset is through mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps you cultivate a state of wellness, clarity, and responsiveness. With it, you learn not to yearn for happiness or avoid unpleasantness if you can’t control it.

You accept what you’re feeling and learn to be patient and compassionate with yourself.

Live in the now with mindful meditation

Attention is what helps you engage in each moment and stay present. In the absence of this kind of attention, you don’t find the peace, wholeness, or connection you may be looking for.

When you’re attentive, you’re mindful of what you are doing, as you are doing it. There’s no anticipation of the future or regret over the past. You don’t think about anything beyond engaging and focussing on the present.

But how can you train yourself to be attentive?

Try the following exercise (it’s something I’ve learned from Michael).

Step 1: Sit quietly with your hands together. You may realise that your attention is focussed on the feel of your hands.

Step 2: Sit quietly and maintain this position for a few minutes.

Step 3: Ask yourself, “In the past few minutes, did I forget about or “lose” the feel of my hands?”

Hazarding a guess, I’d say that you didn’t feel them when your mind wandered off. This is the moment you broke the continuity of your attention. (This is not a bad thing! It happens to everyone).

With this kind of practice, over time, mindfulness can help you feel grounded. It helps you stay in the moment and stop yourself from thinking ahead or ruminating about what’s already happened. All that matters is what’s happening in the now of your life.

Practice mindfulness this holiday season with Awakened Mind

Whether it’s the holidays or just another day at work, mindfulness can help you control your stress. We’ve designed the guided meditation tracks on our mindfulness app to help you achieve certain health goals, including reducing stress.

From the rest of my team at Awakened Mind, we wish you a mindful holiday and a happy new year!