Holiday Mindfulness

What do the holidays mean to you? Are they about cooking up a storm, blowing the budget, worrying about everybody’s feelings, and losing sleep over what you’ve still got to get done? For those of us who feel compelled to please others, the holidays can be not only physically but emotionally draining.

Holiday fatigue comes from thinking that in order to be a good person, you must do what others want whether you feel like it or not. When the meaning of the holidays turns into self-sacrifice, we get overwhelmed. It feels as if the holidays are being done to us, not enjoyed by us.

If you are one of those people, let’s do it differently this year. Let’s step back from the commercial vision of what happy holidays are about. What do you want your holiday to feel like? What personal meaning does this time of year have for you? Maybe you can drop any guilt over not being selfless and generous enough and instead set the intention to make the holidays more restorative and nourishing for yourself. Ask yourself what you would like the next few weeks to be like for you. Besides buying gifts and serving others, what do you want to feel during this season? Setting a clear intention reminds you to create your holidays, not be trapped by them.

Many of us see holiday decorations and commercials as cues to put ourselves on hold and focus on making the holidays all about others. But what if you let the holiday festivities remind you how important it is to take care of yourself? What if you made the holidays a time for reconnecting with your spirit and inner world? Instead of feeling pressured, you could look at the holiday decorations and think instead: time to keep myself in mind.

Holidays are an excellent time for personal growth. You can use the holidays to practice inner balance when outside pressures are mounting. This year could be the perfect time to start taking care of yourself instead of over-focusing on what others need from you. Keeping balance means you spend as much time touching base with your inner world as you do reacting to the outside world.

If you really listen, your heart will tell you what you need to do—or not do—to keep your energy vibrant. If a voice inside tells you there is no time for yourself, ask it if that’s really true. There is always time for yourself if you make a point to take it. In order to feel generous toward others, charity has to start with yourself.

There are three well-tested ways to start taking care of yourself: setting clear boundaries on what you can do, practicing moments of mindfulness, and feeling gratitude. If you practice these behaviors, you will feel empowered even if you have a lot to do.

First, defining good boundaries with other people is essential to keep up your spirits. If you feel you can never say no, it’s hard to feel like saying yes. The hardest part may be to know what you really want. Just ask yourself what you would prefer if everyone were totally okay with whatever you decided. Communicating clearly and setting limits feed your self-respect and raise your energy.

Next you can practice mindfulness, making a point to stay in the moment by keeping a right now focus. Whenever you find yourself jumping into worries about the future, bring yourself back into the present moment by repeating the phrase right this second. Then pause and observe whatever is going on around you. You are fully alive only in the here and now. Let yourself feel it. Notice the sense of relief and lightness whenever you stop and pay attention to your experience of the immediate moment. When you become conscious of just this one second, your mind settles, time stretches out, and stress leaves the body. The more you pause to experience the moment, the more energy you build.

Finally, deliberately feeling gratitude makes us feel willing to say yes to whatever we plan to do. It makes us feel like going forward, instead of dragging our heels. We can use the beginning and end of each day as a time to survey the things we are grateful for. This is not to build phony optimism; it is a way to focus on what we love instead of what we feel pressured to do.

This year include yourself in your holiday plans. Step back and draw a line on what feels like too much this season. Replenish yourself in the mindfulness of tiny moments and let gratitude nourish you from within. This year you can give meaning to your holiday as a time to connect with yourself, as well as other people.

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