"Life is available only in the present moment." -- Thich Nhat Hanh
The holiday season is upon us and most of us are looking forward to enjoying the festivities, and spending quality time with loved ones. This is a time for sharing peace, love, and happiness. However, for many people the holidays have become a great source of stress.
We all have an idea of how events should unfold. So, in our desire to have everything go as planned, we create more stress for ourselves, and lose sight of what the holidays really mean. And as we become more stressed out, we pass that stress on to our loved ones, and end up needing a vacation after our vacation.
The problem with stressful holidays is twofold: 1) we may be trying to do too much, and 2) we may not be dealing with stress effectively. Here are some simple tools from the mindfulness meditation practice that will help you avoid becoming stressed out, so you can truly enjoy the holidays.
Mindful breathing. To practice mindful breathing, all you have to do is stop what you're doing for a few seconds and take 3-5 mindful breaths. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing, and nothing else. Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath, and contract with each out-breath. What this does is help prevent your mind from racing.
Mindful walking. Between the shopping and all the preparations, you will most likely be doing a great deal of walking during the holidays. These are all great opportunities to practice mindfulness. Instead of getting on your cell phone, or allowing your mind to just wander aimlessly, you can use the time to de-stress.
To practice mindful walking, start by slowing down. If you slow down the body, the mind will follow. Then focus your attention on each footstep. Notice how your foot feels as you take each step. You can do this for 2-3 minutes at a time, once or twice a day.
Mindful activities. Anything that we do can be turned into a meditation. Whether it's decorating the Christmas tree, or preparing a meal, you can use it to beat stress. All you have to do is perform the activity with deep awareness. As with mindful breathing and walking, slow down and focus your attention on what you're doing, instead of allowing your mind to wander off. This helps us stay grounded in the present moment, which is where all life is taking place.
Enjoy the scenery. Go someplace where you can enjoy the scenery. I like going to the mall sometimes and just sitting on a bench watching the people go by. It helps me connect with humanity on a greater scale. I sometimes close my eyes and try to connect with them on a higher level. It reminds me that we're all interconnected.
I also like going out to enjoy the beauty of nature. I enjoy looking at the trees, flowers, and all the animals. It helps me appreciate the true miracle of life.
Treat yourself. Do something fun and relaxing for yourself. Why not go to the spa, have a nice meal, or spend an entire afternoon just being lazy? Your personal time is important to your mental and emotional well-being. It gives you time to reflect on what's going on in your life, and to appreciate the important things. So, give yourself a present.
Many of us look forward to the holidays but at the same time dread all the work and stress that sometimes come with them. Much of the stress comes from trying to do too much and high expectations. These five tips will help you avoid getting stressed out without taking much time from your busy schedule, so you can enjoy the true spirit of the holiday season.
Best wishes and Happy Holidays!