How to Avoid the Holiday Blur
By: Sarah Jay Gray
With the holidays quickly approaching you may already feel the pressure of the season. For many the holidays are a blur. Often we find ourselves coming down from our Halloween candy sugar high just in time to begin the holiday hustle. You know the drill - rushing from one store to another to fulfill gift requests, planning and preparing your holiday menu, attending festive events, etc. It can quickly become more about crossing everything off your list rather than enjoying the season. With Covid-19 still in full swing the holidays are going to look and feel differently this year, and many will have a unique opportunity to make changes in how they approach the Holiday season.
If you want to avoid the holiday blur this year I encourage you to consider implementing mindfulness in your daily routine. In the mental health community, “mindfulness” is quickly growing in popularity and rightfully so. What is mindfulness and why is it suddenly popular? Mindfulness simply means being more present in the current moment and noticing our experiences, thoughts, and feelings as they arise without judgment. On average humans have 50,000 thoughts a day, with an estimated 70% of those being negative thoughts. However, with regular practice and a small commitment to self improvement, you can more effectively quiet your mind resulting in a host of benefits.
Studies have found that the benefits of mindfulness include increased memory, more effective emotional regulation, better school and career performance, improved physical and athletic ability, decreases in pain, and reduced stress and anxiety.
Like riding a bike, mindfulness is a learned skill that can be improved upon with practice. A regular mindful practice can be successfully introduced across developmental stages, showing promise in children as young as 2 years old as well as in older adults - even those with dementia.
There are many types of mindfulness and though the goal is to have a regular meditation practice, I recommend starting by integrating small shifts of awareness in your daily life. Consider these mindful approaches over the coming months:
Mindful gifting: Setting a budget and sticking to it can help relieve stress when marking gifts off your list. Start by reflecting on the receiver’s interests and abilities and making a list before you begin shopping. Choosing meaningful gifts rather than generic “click and ship” options shows the thought that went into them. Shopping locally is another way to ensure unique gifts with the added benefit of supporting businesses in your community.
Mindful connections: With limited gatherings this year, we have the opportunity to shift to quality connections over quantity. This may allow us to move beyond small talk and make some lasting memories. Being mindful about conversation topics will contribute to a more pleasant environment. Instead of inquiring about typical life milestones (school, work, relationship status, when children are expected) or politics that can be met with an uncomfortable and defensive reaction try neutral conversation starters like “What’s new?”, “How have you been holding up?”, “Read/watched anything interesting lately?”
Mindful consumption: Here in the South we know the food makes the holiday. Enjoy all your favorite goodies while listening to your body when you are full or when the cocktails begin to work their magic. Mindfully consuming will allow you to be more present and fully enjoy the meals that were so carefully prepared. Thanking the cook by telling your favorite part of the meal shows you appreciate the work that went into creating the festive spread.
Mindful movement: WIth colder weather moving in it is tempting to stay snuggled up watching merry movies but make sure you take breaks for some functional fitness to get your heart hate up and endorphins flowing. Keeping any physical fitness routines you have already established will be helpful for your mental health as well as your physical health. Weather permitting, getting outside for regular walks and fresh air should keep the stink off.
Mindful media: Media has such a strong hold on us - especially in times of covid-19 and elections. Make sure you are limiting your time consuming media. Curating a positive social media feed is key to avoiding unhealthy comparisons and self-judgment. Remember that others are only showing you their highlight reels. Being mindful about what you contribute to social media is just as important as what you are consuming on social media.
The holidays are the perfect time to be more intentional in our daily habits. Not spending time on past regrets or worrying about the future isn't as simple as it sounds but when practiced will allow us to live more intentionally aligned with our values. Being more mindful of the present moment this holiday season will allow you to connect with yourself and others in a new light.
Sarah Jay Gray is a counselor in Oxford. You can connect with her on instagram @Sarahjaygray_counselor Contact her 662-260-6543 or www.thriveoxford.com