The holiday season can be a crazy period for many of us. Juggling with our full calendars between online work meetings, remote family dinners, and online Christmas parties, our stress levels can go up while we end this crazy year and get swept up into the new year. What if I tell you there’s another way? There’s many ways, actually, to cope with our stress, to bring ourselves back into this space of kindness and compassion, to handle a full calendar with more clarity and calm, and to overall handle this holiday season with a cool head. Here are 7 mindful practices to help you as we navigate through the last two weeks of 2020.
1. Set an intention
The holiday season has different meanings to all of us. Setting an intention for the next two weeks can help you remember what is important and what you wish to focus on. It can be from : “I protect my peace” to “I allow myself to enjoy this season and take time to slow down”. Write your intention down & start your day with it. Your daily intention can look different than your “holiday intention”, so don’t worry about being too strict on it. The purpose of the intention is to tap into how you wish to feel during the day/ weeks by setting the tone. Whenever you face challenges or you get swept away by the craziness of life, remind yourself of your intention and take a moment to slow down.
Visualising your intention and how your day will go is a very powerful tool. Used by many athletes to predict how they will perform in contests, visualisation meditation or exercises have been proven to positively influence the desired outcome. When you set an intention, take a minute to visualise it coming true. How does that make you feel? What feelings arise? What do you notice? Act as if it already came true.
2. Breathing & meditation practices
Stay calm & relaxed by practising breathing exercises or by meditating. The 4-7-8 exercise helps calm down your nervous system which results in a calmer mind and body. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out for 8 counts. Another breathing exercise to add to your toolkit id the box breathing method, or 4-4-4-4 method. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, and repeat as many times as necessary. Proven to boost your focus, performance and lower stress levels, this is a great exercise to do between tasks.
A mindfulness or relaxation meditation keeps the stress levels to a minimum. There are plenty of apps or free online guided meditations. My personal favourite is Insight Timer – where I’m also listed as a teacher and post English and Dutch meditations. If you’re new to meditation, this can be the perfect time to start with it. Maybe you have more free time – great! Maybe you have less free time – even better, because that means you need a slow-down moment more than ever.
3. Spread kindness
This season can be extra challenging or difficult for you and others. Acting from a place of kindness and compassion not only towards others but towards yourself, helps lighten the load. Notice when your mind tends to drift off to negative thoughts, do this powerful thoughts exercise to shift your mindset, and take back control by coming back to yourself. Knowing the difference between your thoughts and your Self is the key here. Your thoughts are not facts, nor are your feelings – read more about that here. Remember, you have the choice and chance to shift to kindness.
4. Self-care rituals
Set time aside to unplug and reset. Self-care means giving yourself what you need, what makes you feel good, and going it guilt-free. This can look like a spa pampering evening, but it can also look like doing absolutely nothing. It can look like binge-watching Netflix while indulging in your favourite snack, or it can look like doing a HIIT workout and filling your body with endorphins. Whatever you need this season, give it to yourself. Show yourself you matter and prioritise yourself + your needs, whatever they might look like.
5. Create fixed routines
Having healthy habits can do wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing. Hold on to these certainties during these uncertain times. Wherever you are, stay disciplined and set time aside for the habits that build up your best self. These can be habits you’ve already built up, or maybe you feel it’s time to try out something new.
When we are in a different or new environment, it can be easier to create habits, because your brain still has not made any associations within this environment. However, when you’re visiting an old, familiar place such as your parents house, you will notice you’ll be drawn back into old habits or behaviours. It’s especially in this scenario we need the disciple we’ve built up to continue our habits and make our wellbeing a priority. Set up a reward system to give yourself credit for keeping up with it!
6. Give yourself grace
This season, show grace to yourself. No one is perfect. A failed recipe, an angry email from your boss, not being able to hug your family members – accept what is, and greet it with grace. Let go of what is outside of your control, and remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. Forgive yourself for mistakes made, and see the lesson you have learned from this mistake, so you’ll never make it again.
Grace allows you to take a step back and have faith that you are improving yourself and the way you interact with the world. Being reminded that everything will turn out okay and remaining hopeful even when things don’t work out as planned, is a muscle we can all train during these times.
7. Live in the present moment
This post would’t have mindfulness in the title without mentioning the present moment. After having dealt with fear, separation and uncertainty throughout this year, allow yourself to bring in kindness and compassion to your feelings and emotions. The first step is to notice what is going on in your mind and body – when you have negative thoughts or you feel a headache rising, notice it and instead of fighting it, accept it. Gently bring your attention to it, and instead of living in your fantasy about the future or a grievance over the past, bring your attention back to this very moment, today, here and now.
We cannot control the future, we cannot go back and change the past, but we can do our best to make this moment as magical as possible. I have written an e-book about mindful living, grab your copy totally for free here!
8. Tap Into Gratitude
When you feel gratitude, you cannot feel another negative emotion at the same time. We often don’t realise what we’re blessed with in our lives. Our brain tends to search for what is missing, what could be better, and what needs to be changed. When we are in a state of gratitude. we rewiere our brain – it’s called neuroplasticity – to recognise the good in situations and by giving thanks for what we have, we also uplift our mood.
The holidays can be both a magical and challenging time, and that’s okay. Part of being human is having different types of emotions, moods, good and bad days. What’s important is to know how to deal with them and love yourself through it all. I genuinely hope these tips help you. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, follow my Instagram for inspiring and educational content about mindful and purposeful living, sign up for my weekly newsletter here or listen to my podcast and meditations here. Happy Holidays!