5 ways to use mindfulness to cope with holiday stress this year

5 ways to use mindfulness to cope with holiday stress this year

mindfulness, holiday stress, holiday stress 2022, mindfulness activity, mindfulness exercises, stress, anxiety, social anxiety, self-compassion

The holidays are here. It's time to hang up the lights, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and attempt to mindfully cross off items on that infamous and ever-growing to-do list without letting stress overtake the intention for joy and togetherness. If you're like me, this is easier said than done.

The commercials and Hallmark movies always show the joyful parts of this time of year, but as we all know, it can also be a time of stress, sadness, and anxiety. Here are some ways to make all parts of this holiday season more mindful – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

1. Set intentions, not expectations

Instead of setting unhealthy and unrealistic expectations (e.g. how you expect other people to behave), set an intention for what you would like to get out of the holidays. That intention could sound something like:

“My intention is to be present in each moment.” 

“My intention is to pay attention to what I’m grateful for.”

"My intention is to learn more about my family."

This is also a nice way to practice focusing on what’s in your control – your mindset, your words, and your behaviors – instead of wasting energy trying to control the people around you.

2. Practice mindful listening

It’s not often that the whole family comes together in the same place at the same time. Often the holidays come and go so quickly we’re left feeling like we didn’t quite appreciate the moment as much as we had hoped to. Make a point to pay attention and listen with intention when you gather with friends and family this year.

Here are some ways to practice mindful listening:

  • Set aside distractions (i.e. your phone)
  • Notice when your mind wanders (and bring your attention back to the speaker)
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Listen with curiosity, not judgment
  • Take a mindful breath before responding
  • Reflect on what you've heard 

3. Invite gratitude into the holidays

You could approach this as an intention for yourself, or you could invite the family to practice with you.

If you prefer to keep it to yourself, one nice and easy approach is to create a gratitude note on your phone. Throughout the holidays, anytime you notice yourself feeling grateful, add that thing/person/moment to your list. At the end of the holiday season, you can practice self-reflection by mindfully looking over your list and sitting with the joy you experienced.

If you'd like to invite friends and family into your gratitude practice, you can take a moment before each meal to go around and say what you're each grateful for. This is a great way to be present with your loved ones during the holiday season, and if your family is prone to any stress or tension this time of the year, it's a really nice way to let things go and focus on what's important.

4. Take a deep breath 

You're at the dinner table and that topic comes up. The need to take a deep breath might resonate with some of us more than others when it comes to bringing the family together. If you catch yourself feeling tense or anxious, don't be afraid to step away and take a few deep breaths. If you're interested in a guided breathwork session, Othership is a great app (this is a link to a free 2-week trial if you'd like to give it a try). I personally use it before video calls and social gatherings to calm my nerves. Headspace is also a great resource if you're interested in guided meditations.

5. Remember it's only one day. 

Whether you're trying to soak up the joy or just survive a family gathering, remember that it's only one day. Keeping this in perspective can give us more patience and help us be more compassionate, not only to those around us, but to ourselves as well. 

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