Mindfulness for the holidays

The one thing you can always count on during the holiday season is that there will be plenty of opportunities to observe your stress reactions and practice mindfulness.  Our overly busy schedules become fuller, we burn the candle at both ends to try to keep up with it all, our normal routines are disrupted and we spend time with people who often know how best to push our buttons.

So I thought I’d provide a few tips for thriving in, not just surviving, this year’s holidays.

Slow it down.  Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, choose to pause for a few moments during the day.  Take a couple of deep, relaxing breaths and notice how it feels to be still.  Bring awareness to sensations in the body, especially those connected to the breath.  You will be amazed at the wonders this simple maneuver will work.

Don’t take it personally.  Sometimes people are not at their best during the holidays and may do and say things that are hurtful or upsetting.  Often, our automatic reaction is to interpret this as an attack and strike back.  You might instead take a breath and try to understand what that person might be experiencing to behave or speak that way, and realize it has mostly to do with them, not you.  You might offer them compassion, or at least do nothing, and see if that changes the situation for you.

Practice gratitude and generosity.  Although our culture encourages us to want more, do more and be more, we can feel pretty empty this time of year.  One of the quickest antidotes for this malady is giving of yourself to others.  It doesn’t require money, it requires thought and action.  Even the simplest things, like a smile or a hug, can bring joy to another person in ways you can’t even imagine.  You can also take time to appreciate all that is right in your life, instead of focusing on what isn’t.  If you are breathing, sensing and present, there is a lot more that is right than is wrong!

Take good care of yourself.  Many of us think we have to take care of everyone else (Guess what?  It’s not really true!).  Some of us even make ourselves sick by doing too much.  You will be at your best if you are sensitive to and meet your own needs this holiday season (not at the expense of others, of course!).  Take time to get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, move your body, and make time for quiet contemplation and meditation.  Love and care for yourself, even when you make a mistake, just as you would a cherished friend.

These are several of my favorites – I’ll bet you have some, too.  I’d love to hear your tips for embracing and making the most of this special time of the year.

Linda Oxford

Linda Oxford, MS, MA, LPC, RYT500

Linda has a private mental health counseling practice in Rochester Hills and Alden (seasonally), Michigan. She provides compassionate and confidential psychotherapy and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes, meditation and yoga training to people, groups and businesses wanting to learn to decrease anxiety and depression, cope with chronic physical or emotional pain, improve health and well-being, and gain greater satisfaction with life.

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