As you look at the last six weeks of the year, your head probably feels like it’s going to spin right off your head. Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, November and December are joyous and festive months, but they’re also jam-packed with non-stop events, parties, shopping and well, food. This final quarter is usually a very stressful time for most people, and it’s when your diet, your exercise habits and your healthy choices give way to a third (and second) helping of apple pie and another round of eggnog.
But apart from your body taking a hit, your happiness level and mindset can start to suffer, too. And it’s not just because you’re busy, it’s due to all sort of inside and outside factors. “It’s difficult to stay mindful during the holidays for many reasons. First it’s usually when we spend time with family that we don’t usually see and it’s easy to fall back into old habits around family. There is a tendency to forget to give ourselves time to stop and process before reacting,” life coach Carmen Parks says. Also, during the holidays there are more events and outings than usual. People who tend to put others first can find it difficult to say ‘no’ during the holidays and can forget to take a step back to evaluate.”
Even if getting the best deals for everyone on your holiday list and making sure you make an appearance at each and every party might seem really important, prioritizing your daily joy and stress level should also rank high. “If one can practice a bit more mindfulness during the holidays, you can quickly realize what is completely unnecessary; most of it, and focus on the message of family and love,” explains intuitive and coach Christine Alexandria. “Bigger does not mean better. Better can be a quiet dinner with close friends after the holidays. Better can be one heartfelt gift that speaks to the recipient’s interests and likes. It’s not a scramble to fill a void and your present will solve everything let alone anything.”
So how do you practice mindfulness during this hectic, crazy-busy time? Here, experts explain the secrets:
1. Put ‘Alone Time’ On Your Calendar
Before you even start to receive (and accept) all of the invites for the millions of events that request your presence – block time for you and only you. It can be an hour for a workout class, an afternoon to see a movie you’ve really been wanting to see or even a night in with a glass of wine, a face masque and your new fave Netflix series. “With all of the parties, family obligations, and shopping – it’s a high contact season. You need time to yourself to remember what the season is about, reflect on the year prior, and set goals for the season ahead,” suggests women’s success expert and life coach, Alionka Polanco.
2. Develop a Meditation Routine You Can Return To
Once the chaos sets in – as it always will – you need something you can fall back onto to recenter, refocus and unwind. That’s why Parks says to make it a habit before you stressed completely out, that way it won’t seem like a chore when you need to turn to it. “Once something becomes a habit it’s a lot easier to continue. For example, every morning, give yourself 15 minutes every morning before even getting out of bed to practice mindfulness,” she explains. “Become an observer and be present about what’s going on in the moment. If/when you catch yourself getting sidetracked and thinking about the past or the future, bring your awareness back to the present moment.”
3. Be True To Your Budget, No Matter What
One of the biggest headaches of the ‘most wonderful time of year’ is that everything starts to add up. As money discussions are often a constant source of anxiety and worry for most people, overspending can cause your levels to reach an all-time high. After all, who wants to come back from the comfort of spending time with family to a bulky credit card bill… right before tax season? That’s why Alexandria says money matters. “Be true to you and your budget. It may force you to search a bit longer for the right gift, but it will be all the more treasured when the love you have for that person goes into it,” she says. “It takes a bit of listening consciously to others as they talk and share and within the puzzle you will find the gift. I promise you, it most likely isn’t found at your local department store.”
4. Check In With Yourself Twice a Day
If your first thought every morning is ‘I need coffee and OMG, I have to do this. And that! And OMG, I can’t believe I hit snooze!’ then it’s time to take a step a back, and refocus your mindset. How you start – and end – your day can shape your perspective, your goals and your attitude in every situation you’re faced with. That’s why Alexandria suggests hitting ‘pause’ in your mind and your movement right when you wake up and right before you lay your head down. “Upon awakening each morning, before your feet touch the ground, give thanks. No matter how long your list of things to accomplish that day, by starting off with the energy of gratitude, your presence will be more present in every act and others will notice. Best part? You can maintain that energy and calmness throughout the day!,” she explains.
And what about at night? Here is her two cents: “Upon retiring for the evening, spend a quiet few moments once again going over the day. Would you have done anything differently? This is not a way to lay on guilt, but to point out there are always areas that could use improvement. When you begin to look at them more abstractly and as a whole, you will realize most of the time, it is being present. Remember, your attention is where you are focused in that exact moment,” she says. “The time of multi-tasking is coming to a close. Sound difficult? Perhaps, but when you are focused on one event at a time, you actually are more productive and enjoy the journey all the more.”
5. Take Yourself Out of the Picture
Do you get snippy with your best friend when they G-chat you to vent and you’re so busy at work you can barely breathe? Or do you get annoyed when your partner wants to take you out for dinner but you just can’t with everything else going on? It can be easy to think the world is spinning on your very own axis, until you take yourself out of the picture and into the grander scheme. “This time of year is crazy for everyone so be extra kind to everyone you encounter. When you’re freaking out about your delayed flight – put yourself in the shoes of the flight attendant who just had to make the announcement. Tip well, smile at your service people and let them know you’re all in this together,” Polanco says.