It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the most stressful too as the holidays bring extra demands, yet not extra resources. Thankfully, there are informal mindfulness practices we can use at any time to lessen the impact of stress, and unite our minds, bodies and hearts in the present moment.
Below are mindful TIPs (Taking In (the) Present) for coping with common holiday stresses. We can end rumination or rehearsing and rehashing thoughts with these mindful TIPs, attending to our direct experience network to increase well-being.
Busy Schedules and Rumination
As if our schedules are not full enough as entrepreneurs, the holidays can bring extra obligations to overflow our calendars. Just thinking about our schedule and to-do lists can send us ruminating with anxiety. As a result, we may notice an increased heart rate, tension, or even insomnia as we continue to ruminate perpetuating the stress. When you notice you are anxious, try the following techniques.
Take a few slow deep breaths to trigger the calming effect. Breathe in deeply through your nose- sensing the cool air, and feeling your chest rise. Hold the breath for a moment and then gently exhale slowly through your mouth, noticing the chest falling. Repeat this cycle two more times- taking in, absorbing, and releasing your breath. Try this technique as you transition from events, or when you find yourself ruminating. Additionally, look at your calendar and prioritize events that are essential, and those that can be delayed or declined. Remember, when you say “no” to one thing or person, you say yes to another. Maybe it’s time to say yes to yourself.
Waiting in Lines and Impatience: Tired of standing and waiting in store lines? Wishing for people to move a little faster on both sides of the counter? Or stuck in traffic that seems to be going nowhere?
mTIP: Soles of Your Feet
End impatience by sensing into the soles of your feet. If standing, focus your attention by balancing equally on your feet. Sway slightly from side to side, noticing what you feel as your weight shifts. Balance equally once more, focusing your attention on sensations in your feet, starting with your toes. Shift your weight forward to feel the pressure of your toes touching the floor. Shift your balance and attention now to the outer edges of your feet. Lastly, move your weight and attention to your heels. What do you notice? Firmness, moisture, or nothing at all? If you are driving and stuck in traffic, you can feel into your hands on the steering wheel, using the same concept of moving your attention to your palms and then fingers. What sensations do you notice?
Over Eating: Are you eating more mindlessly than mindfully this holiday season? People tend to consume more calories over the holidays—which could be due to stress or even social obligations. Whichever way you slice it, you may find yourself full, or on the contrary, hungry if you disengage from the eating process.
mTIP: Attend to the Details & Savor
During your next meal, focus your attention on the details of one bite: color, shape, texture, and smell. Notice what happens inside your mind as it forms opinions about the food. Put the bite into your mouth, and notice what happens inside your body. What do you sense in your mouth: hot, cold, hard, or soft? Is the flavor more intense on one side than the other? Swallow this bite, following it to your stomach. Savor the experience, being with whatever you are feeling. Then notice if you are satisfied, or want more? Try eating your first three bites of your meal this way. Notice how it affects your experience?
These are general TIPs for reducing stress mindfully this holiday season. For more ideas on how to bring mindfulness into your daily life, see my blog and posts on From Stressed to Blessed, Part I, and Part II, and Eating, Drinking & Being Mindful.
About the author: Merry Woodruff, MA, is a Certified Mindfulness and Wellness Coach and Teacher. She has personally witnessed how mindfulness can change lives for the better, from stress reduction to self-compassion, to eating and living consciously. We have more power over our well-being than we think, if we just increase our awareness around it. Merry holds an ACC designation from the International Coach Federation, and received her mindfulness training from the Mindfulness Coaching School, MentorCoach.com, and the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. Connect with Merry on Twitter: @being_merry