Mindfully Dealing with Holiday Stress

A free Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional

Mindfully Dealing with Holiday Stress

Dealing with Holiday Stress – with Mindfulness

We plan to discuss a few effective and immediate ways to manage holiday stress. Then, we will discuss and practice mindfulness as a way to deal with stress as a longer-term strategy for changing your relationship with stress, anxiety, sadness and other challenging holiday emotions and situations. Mindfulness – a simple and effective but not always easy practice that can help you manage holiday stress.

Mindfulness Meditation – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, with Compassion

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 (and 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 discuss 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 some 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. Mindfulness aids in each of these approaches. Please note: the following are complementary to and not a substitute for, having a mindfulness meditation practice.

  • 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.”[4]).
  • Remember – thoughts and emotions are just mental events; real but not necessarily true.
  • 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.
  • Pausing – whenever you notice that you are first starting to experience stress, take a moment to just be, rather than continuing to do what 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. Then allow those sensations to be there, turning toward them rather than away from them. Now – using awareness, 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 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. process – the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop* helps you to “unpack,” understand, and practice this process. It is largely an experiential (or non-cognitive) process available to everyone.

An over-all guideline for handling holiday stress or any kind of stress is to pause and ask yourself whether your behaviors or speech will lead to greater or less peace in your inner and outer life.

Holiday Stress References: Train your brain to Tame Holiday Stress and Have a Happy, Gift-Light Holiday.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop provides guidelines and practices for brining mindfulness to the stress/suffering that we all experience – starts February 19, 2017. Registration starts soon. Class size is limited.

Research the American Mindfulness Research Association.

Additional Free Mindfulness Offerings by the Loran Smith Center

Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness meditation instruction sessions are free. Any level of experience is welcome. Free parking. The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets, 1st and 3rd Saturday, 8:30 – 9:30a.m. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshops and these mindfulness practice opportunities are held at the Healing Lodge, next door to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606.

The Mindfulness Practice Evening is facilitated by Mike Healy, Ed.D., certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a certified Integral Hatha Yoga instructor, RYT 200. For more information on mindfulness or yoga classes, please contact: www.MindfuLiving.org, mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call 706-543-0162

For information about these or the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop please visit or contact: MindfuLiving.org or mfhealy@bellsouth.net . Next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop starts February 18, 2019.