Handle Holiday Stress with Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness Mazzoni Center LGBT health holiday stress
    Bob Pileggi of our Open Door Counseling Program

With the holiday season upon us, there are abundant opportunities for connection and enjoyment – in addition to stress!  So much of our holiday stress is connected to outsized expectations, family tensions, financial concerns, intimate relationships, travel headaches, or other factors.

Some good news: whatever the source of your stress, mindfulness can be a powerful and effective tool to help you more fully experience the things that delight you at this time of year.

Mindfulness is primarily about paying attention to life in this moment. Not only can it help us enjoy more, it can help us cope with what’s challenging by making more conscious choices.

As we are aware of the symptoms that show up for us in challenging holiday moments (such as tension in the body, sadness, or self-defeating thoughts of not being wanted, for example), we have the opportunity to choose consciously how we’ll respond. Mindful awareness can lead to healthy choices!

Here are a few easy mindfulness tips for enjoying the holidays more, and for making empowering choices when challenges arise.

1. Savor your food
Gobble gobble – that's one choice.  Or perhaps instead, mindfully eat your first bite. Notice the smells, colors, flavors, texture...  Starting out this way may satisfy you more quickly, and help prevent overeating...in addition to making the food more enjoyable!

2. Notice the delights
Instead of rushing through the holidays, delight in them. Pause and take in the lights, decorations, the music – whatever you enjoy.  Choose to focus on what helps you feel joy or gratitude.

3. Shop mindfully
Giving gifts to others? Or yourself (let’s be honest about those holiday sales, right!)? Before buying, notice how it feels to hold this potential gift. Is it something that brings up joy, knowing that the other person will receive it? Or are you feeling compelled or stressed to get it just because it’s such a “good deal?” Perhaps you’ll end up enjoying the experience of shopping more, and not putting as big of a dent as usual in holiday finances.

4. Handle challenges like a P.R.O.
When challenging interactions or emotions arise, consider following these steps to diffuse the challenge and to make a healthy decision.

P = PAUSE: Notice that the challenge is happening; the emotions arising; the tension in the body.

R = RELAX: Take a breath (or 2 or 3). Stretch. Back away from the situation a bit.

O = OPEN: Open to the possibilities:

a) maybe things will be ok

b) maybe you are strong enough and maybe you do have other support (friends may be just a text away) to handle the situation. Perhaps access support and then move forward with a conscious choice, rather than an (over)reaction that may leave you feeling more stressed.

For more information about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction click here.

Learn more

Topics