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Mindfulness during the holidays

These last two months of the year are full of events that are often fun and fulfilling, but can also try our patience, add to our stress, tempt us to overschedule. On top of that, for the third holiday season we are also managing our way through illnesses and risks. What ways can we navigate this time of year, take care our ourselves and move through this time with ease? Sharing a few of my suggestions!

1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: In this world of social media, we may be bombarded with images of holidays, and it can make us question ourselves, or set expectations that just are not attainable! Comparison may be our first reaction, but here is the invitation to limit your time on social media, which is healthy and helpful at any time of year. Also, be mindful of what triggers you and perhaps take the opportunity to cull your list to what really matters to you.

2. Practice Active Listening and connect deeply: The invitation? Approach family and friends with curiosity, perhaps as the first time you are meeting them. Be mindful to all they are saying, and tune into their body language as well. Be present, avoid multi-tasking when in conversation (i.e., turn off the phone!) You may be surprised at the results of making a deeper connection with those who know, and even the stranger you may meet in line at the grocery store.

3. Volunteer or give to others: There are many people who find the holidays very difficult for many reasons, perhaps they are alone, perhaps unable to be with others for various reasons. Take the opportunity to perhaps volunteer some time or donate to worthwhile causes that help others.

4. Schedule mindfully, don’t try to do it all and include time for your own wellbeing: So much to do! Family, friends, co-workers. Even as we still manage the ongoing effects of illnesses that are prevalent (covid, flu, RSV), we are still faced with invitations. How to respond? I believe it is important to each of us to understand what level of risk we are comfortable taking and make decisions based on that risk for ourselves and others. I also think it is critical we extend grace to others during this time. The decisions can be difficult, and heart wrenching, and we all need all the support we can.

5. Focus on what is important: So many “shoulds” happen this time of year. Trying to meet everyone else’s needs and wants can lead to resentment and stress. Take the opportunity to balance the necessary obligations with what serves you most, including self-care time.

6. Pause, reflect, and respond from your highest self: There is great power in a pause. Pausing provides the space for us to check in with our own reactions and emotions, and to take a pause to not react, but rather to respond. A respond may be verbal, it may be just in our presence. Be curious about how you are reacting. Check in with yourself and see if this is an old pattern or thought that is lingering. Perhaps it is time to move on from that pattern.

7. Mindful Consumption: From the food we eat, to what we drink and how much money we may spend during this time of year, it is an opportunity to be aware and mindful of the choices we make. If this is a period where you tend to overindulge, be aware! Pause, be compassionate and loving towards yourself, and remind yourself of the reasons behind the holiday season, as an opportunity to gather with others.

8. Approach with Curiosity: The world is a bit of a volatile place these days, and often topics can come up with our family and friends that may be difficult, or triggering. While we may anticipate difficult conversations, try to approach as if is the first time you are meeting someone, with curiosity. It may not diffuse a triggering event, but perhaps it will allow you to take a step back and detach from reactions.

9. Make time for yourself: It can be as simple as taking a walk outside, moving your body, sitting, and reading or simply pausing for a few moments of mindful breathing. Incorporating small practices into your day can begin practices that transform your life.

I truly believe we are all doing the best we can, from wherever we are in life. Extending grace and compassion to others, as well as ourselves, can help us navigate what for some can be a difficult time of year. If this is a time of year that is difficult for you, I wish you peace, and the knowing that you are never alone. May love and grace extend to you this holiday season.

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