Mindfulness is the key to a stress free holiday season. It’s that wonderful time of year! Christmas is just around the corner; hearts are full of love and hands are abounding in generosity. Unfortunately, however, when the big day arrives, minds are only filled with anxious bustle. The burden of unfinished tasks looms over the head like an Eeyore cloud all day. But don’t let it get you down! Help keep the stress in time-out with these five small tricks, from simple planning to meditation.
One convenient way to plan is to begin planning way before the big day–maybe a few weeks before. Most people have an idea about what needs to happen, but they never get into the details until at the last minute. Instead, get out a sheet of paper and write down the first things that come to your head immediately, without even bothering to remember the hard stuff. Over the course of the next few weeks, as you are going about your daily activities, your mind will naturally churn things on the back burner, and once in a while, something will pop to the front of your mind. Grab that sheet again and write down your idea before it disappears! By the time you are ready to sit down and seriously go over your “To Do” list, most of your tasks will have already made it onto the paper, and you can spend your time, instead, organizing the order in which you will accomplish the tasks. (FYI: Anything that can be done before the big day should be done. Things will almost always go contrary to plan, so it is best to leave the big day as open as possible for those disasters.)
Take a breather.
This is probably one of the hardest ones. With so much to do, the last thing one wants to do is nothing! However, it is crucial for keeping a clear head, a good temperament, and a relatively enjoyable time. Even if it can only be five minutes out in the sunlight, a breath of fresh air can work wonders for the mind, and a change of scenery can calm the nerves and help reset the emotions. Five minutes socializing about superficial things unrelated to the festivities will help keep the mind balanced, giving it the relief of thinking about something else once in a while and allowing it to regrip on the important matter. You may have lost five minutes, but you’ll feel way better for it and be able to attack your work with new vigor, perhaps making up for those five minutes plus some.
Keep a healthy diet.
This might not be an apparently obvious key to keeping stress levels down; but eating is a very important part of staying alive. And in stressful times, it is extremely helpful if you are alive. The more alive, the better. If you know that sitting down for a meal will be impossible, make sure that you prepare handy snacks beforehand to keep you fueled for the busy days ahead: nuts, fruits, veggies, crackers and cheese, hard-boiled eggs, smoothies, (chocolate never hurt anyone…), etc. It is not only a saying that when one is hungry, one is cranky. Food not only gives physical and mental energy, but it also plays an important role in the balancing of your hormones and can contribute significantly to your mood, which will significantly affect your performance.
This goes along the lines of taking a breather. They take nearly no time at all but can give that little extra boost you need to go conquer the world (or the Christmas goose).
- The fastest, simplest stretch is one many people do the first thing in the morning. Some may know it as “Taking Off Your Shirt:” make a large outward circle with your arms with a huge breath in on their journey up, and a deep breath out as they return to your sides. Imagine you are a flower greeting the sun in the quiet morning.
- Head circles and shoulder rolls are a helpful way to ease the tension lodged in the joints, just enough to lubricate the rusty hinges and get you going again.
- Downward dog, if you are flexible enough. This takes a little more commitment, as afterward, you will most likely want to wash your hands which takes a whole extra 30 seconds. But it is a convenient way to lengthen the spine and alleviate lower back pain, especially when followed up with the upward dog (think like a seal but keep your shoulders down). Don’t forget to breathe long and deep breaths, inhaling when you are in a pose and right before you leave the pose and exhaling during the transitions between poses.
Many people find it difficult to take time out of their day to still and reset their mind. One of the most convenient times to do this, then, is at bedtime when the day is done. It is a time when you will not be interrupted and you may fall asleep if you like. It can actually help you to fall asleep (which is great when your brain has a difficult time shutting up). Lie down with your eyes closed and focus on a specific area of blackness in the void you see. If you are really seeing the black, there should be no room left for other thought. (Sound has a way of invading the mind, though, so take care to limit outside noises.) Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. And take a deeper breath in, and a deeper breath out. Then take the deepest breath you possibly can, filling up your lungs to bursting point, and push all the air out, deflating your chest until there is nothing left to squeeze out. Then recover with one more filling breath and let it out. Take five more mildly deep breaths, still focusing on the black space. If your mind begins to wander and it becomes incredibly difficult to stay focused, let it. It is falling asleep, and that is a good thing.