5 brilliant mindfulness tips to brighten your holiday spirit

Tis’ the season of the holidays, and while we may strive for joy, peace and yuletide cheer, this time of year often brings  an abundance of stress and anxiety.  The months of November and December can rapidly escalate  the pressure to orchestrate the perfect holiday ambiance. The search for the perfect gift or throwing the perfect holiday party can activate an impulse to measure our self-worth against the standards of our “ideal” selves or others.  Before we know it, holiday cheer is transformed into holiday madness. We find ourselves unwittingly caught up in the frenzied snowstorm of mixed emotions and self criticism.  

According to National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season. Images on social media and Hollywood movies of a cozy warm fireplace or a beautifully decorated tree contribute to our collective sense that this is undoubtedly the “most wonderful time of the year.” The pressure of attempting to actualize societal standards can fuel unrealistic expectations, stress, and self-criticism. Additionally, fantasizing about the perfect holiday can distract from the immediacy of what the holiday season has to offer: gratitude, self-reflection and the time to express our love for family and friends.  

Before you ask yourself, “have I been naughty or nice?” … take a moment to reflect on the following mindfulness tips. We hope these ideas will inspire a spirit of kindness and love for yourself and others.

Here are 5 ways to stay grounded and mindful during the holiday season:

1. MINDFUL: Stay present. Breathe. Make sure you spend at least 5 minutes sitting quietly to reflect. You can download meditation apps that guide you through a visualization or stress reduction exercise. Try to calm your body by taking a bath, practicing yoga or going for a hike.  

2. SELF-CARE: Prioritize a routine of self-care. Exercise, sleep and healthy eating will help to keep the roller coaster of the holiday buzz from knocking you off your balance

3. ROUTINE:  Plan ahead and focus on the things that are within your control. Work deadlines, problematic family members and holiday events are sometimes outside of your control. Learn to set boundaries, organize time and, if needed, say “no” when it’s not the right time for you.  

4. SELF-REGULATION: Avoid the excessive use of alcohol, sugar and caffeine to regulate your emotions or to assist in powering through the busy holiday season. This may give you temporary relief but can cause fluctuations in energy and mood, and ultimately burnout.

5. LOVE: Connect with others and yourself. The holiday season is a great time to connect with friends and family. Meet up with your loved ones to share a meal and celebrate the people you love.

In short, remember to pace yourself mindfully, shift your focus and keep it simple. The holiday season does not have to become a frantic time of holiday madness and emotional burnout. Gift yourself this holiday season by slowing down, breathing deeply, and taking an emotional u-turn towards self-care and self-love.

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co-editors: Megan Faralli, LMHC and Alan S. Vanell, LMHC