Guest Post by Amy Zoe Schonhoff:
The holiday season is the time of year when we typically express gratitude for the lives we have and extend generosity to others. Unfortunately, these simple intentions often get obscured by nudges to overshop, overspend, overindulge and otherwise drive ourselves into a frenetic pace that can leave us physically, emotionally and financially exhausted by the time it’s all said and done.
Taking a mindful approach to the holidays can be a helpful way to avoid the pitfalls of “over-doing” during the season. To be clear, when I say mindful, I mean really taking the time to pay attention to what you’re doing, as you’re doing it, while maintaining a friendly and receptive attitude to all that is happening. With that in mind, the following are some suggestions for how you might orient towards the holiday season with a greater sense of mindful awareness so you can keep your attention on what really matters while maintaining a sense of balance along the way.
Keep it Simple
Much of the stress experienced during the holiday season is the result of the added work that gets loaded on top of our regular, everyday responsibilities. See if there are ways to scale back this year to activities that have the greatest meaning for you. How do you want to feel? How do you want those around you to feel? Allow what you value most to drive your activities rather than feeling like you have to do it all.
Make Time for Yourself
Although there is a great deal more to do this time of year, sacrificing self-care to get more done is likely to leave you feeling depleted. Make your well-being a priority. Take time to eat nutritious food regularly. Make sure you’re getting enough physical movement, whether that’s structured physical exercise, going for a walk or just taking a few minutes to stretch your body. Give yourself time to pause throughout the day, whether that’s through meditation, resting your body when it feels necessary or just stopping to take a few conscious breaths.
Meet Your Edges with Curiosity and Care
The pace of the holiday season can put many of us on edge, inclining us to react to impulses that are not helpful to ourselves or others. Often when we start to feel this way it’s because an important need is not being met. When you feel agitation arise, consider exploring it with a sense of curiosity and care. Can you identify the emotion or feeling that is present? Can you notice where it is housed in your body? Are you able to notice any thoughts that are arising in conjunction with the feeling? Taking time to notice these experiences without getting carried away by them can help to regulate the nervous system and give you some space before launching into a response.
Let Go of Perfection
Although we all want everything to go off without a hitch, striving to do it all “perfectly” can become debilitating and suck the joy out of the whole process. Be kind to yourself and let go of perfection. Your full attention and care as you walk through the process is enough.
Bring more of yourself to the holiday season this year by cultivating greater mindful awareness. Simplify the process by identifying the things that are most important to you, prioritize self-care to help maintain personal balance, take time to soothe yourself when you’re feeling agitated and see if you can let go of things needing to be a certain way. In the end, the beauty of this time of year has less to do with how well we attend to our task list and more to do with how present we are to really appreciate who and what we already have in our lives.
May your holiday season be filled with many moments of joy and peace!
Amy Zoe Schonhoff, is the founder of Mindfulness in the Heartland, a venture dedicated to offering training and education in mindfulness. Amy has been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years, is a qualified teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and a trained Mindful Schools Educator. You can learn more about Amy and the services of Mindfulness in the Heartland at www.mindfulheartland.com