Mindfully Dealing with Holiday Stress
Exploring Mindfulness practices and several related ways to work with holiday stress
Mindfulness Meditation – Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion.
Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness (a unified and tranquil mind). Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, experiential, in the present moment, now (as in “Be Here Now”); not being caught-up in thoughts of the future or the past. Attention is where the mind is focused, with curiosity and gentleness. We focus attention on whatever arises in mind and body. Just directly observing the sensations themselves, moment-to-moment, with nothing added. This practice is done with Compassion – coming to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way and extending understanding and compassion to others. Being present in this way you are able to change your relationship with stress and other forms of suffering (i.e., anxiety, fear, depression, worry, etc.).
Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment. This process results in not identifying as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in-turn loosens attachment to them, allowing space for creative conscious choices. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.
Mindfully Dealing with Holiday Stress
First, we discuss a few effective and immediate ways to manage holiday stress. Next, we will explore and practice mindfulness as a way to deal with stress as a long-term strategy. Mindfulness is a simple, but not always easy practice that can help you reduce holiday stress.
Short-terms strategies for working with holiday stress: Spend time reflecting on your “top 1-3 holiday stressors and how they make you feel both in body and mind. See if/where these mindfulness-related “tips” may be useful for you. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress with each of the following strategies. Please note: the following are complementary to and not a substitute for, having a mindfulness meditation practice.
- Awareness of Breath Meditation – the first part of the Mindfulness Meditation
- Simplify – your life, obligations, “stuff;” prioritize and reflect on what really matters.
- Learn to say “no” – know your limits in terms of your energy level, time constraints, finances, etc.
- Be flexible – the only thing that does not change is change itself; surf the waves of change.
- Be kind to yourself – a little compassion for yourself and others is its own reward. Know what is “good enough” – expectations and perfectionism are often not helpful. (Google “wabi sabi” – “[w]abi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”).
- Remember – thoughts and emotions are just mental events; real but not necessarily true. This is deeply realized through mindfulness practice.
- Reflect on, identify, and watch for your emotional triggers” – things you consider your “hot buttons.” Be prepared with appropriate responses rather than your automatic reactions to specific situations or conditions.
- ausing – whenever you notice that you are starting to experience stress, take a moment to just be, rather than continuing to do whatever you are doing. Even short periods of just being, stepping out of doing can be remarkable nourishing and refreshing. Simply bringing a kind attention to the natural flow of your breath and body can assist with just being.
Mindfulness – a long-term and deeper way to change your relationship with stress (i.e., stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, and other forms of suffering): First, recognize the source(s) of stress, recognizing the physical manifestations of stress on your body and mind (that is your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations). Then allow those sensations to just be there, turning toward them rather than away from them. Now – using awareness, attention, concentration, and compassion, investigate the mind body processes as they unfold, moment-to-moment. With patience and practice a felt-sense of a loosening of identification with these aspects of stress – such as, body sensations, thoughts, and emotions, will arise on its own. This non-identification allows for self-compassion to arise as you rest in awareness. This if often referred to as the R.A.I.N. practice or steps – the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop* helps you to “unpack,” understand, and practice this process. It is largely an experiential (or non-cognitive) practice available to everyone.
Best Guideline for handling holiday stress or any kind of stress is to pause and ask yourself whether your behavior or speech will lead to greater or lesser peace in your inner and outer life.
Holiday Stress References: Train your brain to Tame Holiday Stress – https://www.mindful.org/train-brain-tame-holiday-stress-anxiety/ and Have a Happy, Gift-Light Holiday – www.mindful.org/have-a-happy-gift-light-holiday/
Research on Mindfulness – MBSR is considered the “gold standard” for mindfulness studies. For peer reviewed journal articles on mindfulness research – visit the American Mindfulness Research Association (goamra.org).
Thursday Morning Mindfulness is led by Mike Healy, Mindful Living Center, Athens, GA – certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. You can contact Healy at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Individual Sessions with Flexible Schedule – Live & Online – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop For information please contact Mike Healy at email@example.com or call: 706-248-8918.
Free, Online Mindfulness Practice Opportunities
Live and Online: Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community and sponsored by the Loran Smith Center – that meets the second Friday of each month from 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. We explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practices. All are welcome – whether you are just curious about mindfulness and its benefits or have a regular practice. For more information please contact Mike Healy at firstname.lastname@example.org for details and the Zoom link.
The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group is free and offered to the Community sponsored by the Loran Smith Center; it meets every Saturday from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. This is an opportunity to practice and discuss your mindfulness practice. Now offered online with Zoom. For details and the Zoom link please contact Jasey Jones at email@example.com.
Additional Mindfulness Practice Opportunities
Rick Hanson – meditations and about meditating
Georgia Museum of Art – on the UGA campus (all are welcome)
Morning Mindfulness continues every other Friday at 9:30. For the Zoom registration link each week, sign up for the museum’s free newsletter by becoming a friend of the museum (FREE!)
Morning Mindfulness Achieves are available at YouTube channel here.
For information please contact: Sage Kincaid, Associate Curator of Education, Georgia Museum of Art, 90 Carlton Street, Athens, GA 30602 706.542.8863
A wide variety of Mindfulness Meditations with Tara Brach: https://www.tarabrach.com/
MindfuLiving.Org – the Resources page on Healy’s website includes guided Mindfulness Meditation, Body Scan, and Yoga I (on the mat gentle stretching with awareness), and Yoga II (standing stretching with awareness) practices that are free to stream or download. (Mindful Living Center, LLC)