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!
With winter around the corner + a new lockdown for some countries, many of us are not only facing those winter blues, but now there’s also a thing as lockdown blues. Days become shorter and nights become longer. Being separated from our loved ones and having limited time to spend outdoors takes its toll on our overall wellbeing.
To keep it short: there are many reasons for why this time can be challenging for you. On top of that, your work life probably keeps going on, and maybe you’ve got even more work on your hands.
Here are 4 mindfulness practises that can come in handy during a season of low energy and feeling like the fire, that candle within you, is almost burn out. Let’s keep it lightened up!
1. Practising awareness
Becoming aware of you doing something is step one. And it’s a big step. We live on auto-pilot most of the time – recent studies tell us mor ethan hal of the things we do happens without us realizing it. Mindfulness is all about shifting that auto-pilot mode and taking the wheel in our own hands. Become aware of what you do. Next time you brush your teeth, watch Netflix or start scrolling on Instagram, try to become aware of it.
Maybe you recognize this: you end up scrolling endelssly on social media without even realizing it, afterwards wishing you hadn’t spend that much time on it. That is what happens when we stay on auto-pilot mode and are not really present.
When we shift our attention to this moment, we become aware of what we are doing. The auto-pilot mode gets disrupted, and we can take control again. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should never again scroll on social media or watch Netflix for hours. Mindfulness simply asks us to bring our attention to what we are doing, without any judgment, instead bringing in kindess + curiosity. When you are bingewatching Netflix or scrolling through social media, notice how that feels like for you and what effect it has on you, try to be curious.
2. Recharging check-ins
When our phone is low on battery, we plug it in. When our computer is having issues, we restart it.
You deserve a recharge or a restart as much as your devices.
Mindfulness is all about focusing our attention on the present moment. To notice our breath, how our bodies feel and the environment arround us.
And it all beings with your attention. Redirect your attention to your breath. How are you breathing right now? When we are focused, we tend to hold our breath. This causes our brains to receive less oxygen – and our brains desperately need oxygen to function properly.
If you’re a person who tends to push through work and hop on that treadmill everyday, regardless of how full your battery is, one thing you can start with is setting an alarm to take a break from a project every 2 hours. Go for a walk, do a meditation, take a nap, drink some water, eat a snack, do some stretches,…. taking a small moment for yourself will allow you to return to your day with a fresh mind and body.
3. Holding onto Purpose
Something I have heard clients struggle with the last few weeks, is a lack of motivation + purpose. What gets you up in the morning? What is your reason to own the day and shine brightly?
Setting an intention on a daily basis can help you navigate through the day. Whenever you feel lost, you can remind yourself of the intention you set for the day and take action. This intention can change on the daily, depending on the foucs of the day.
When you focus on this one intention, this purpose, you can see the impact and importance of the actions that you take.
Let’s say you have a big presentation coming up today, and you just woke up, and to be honest you already feel a bit anxious + stressed about it. Setting an intention to remain present + grounded and do your best can help you tackle the day. When you feel stressed, use your intention to come back to and say to yourself: I am present, grounded and I am doing my best. This will put you in the right mindspace but also lead you to take action on the next best thing you can do.
Remember to stay kind to yourself – as I’ve said, mindfulnesss focuses on non-judgment, curiosity and kindness.
4. Purposeful Breathing
You’ll notice that when you take 3 deep breahts (maybe now would be a good time, go on) instantly relaxes you and releases some pressure of your kettle.
Our breath gives us life. It gives us energy. The fact that you are reading this right now and breahting without even knowing it, is a miracle.
What’s even better is that we can play with our breath and allow it to influence our state of being.
When you are tired, try to do an energising breathing exercise: the 6-2 method. Breathe in for 6 seconds, fully exhale for 2 seconds. Repeat until you feel energised + recharged again.
When you are feeling foggy in your mind, and in need of concentration and focus, try the box breathing method, used by many athletes to improve performance and attention. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat until you feed more focused + relaxed.
When you are feeling energised and you want to relax and slow down, try the 4-7-8- method: breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. The long exhales send signals to your brain to relax your nervous system and slow down.
Burnout, as one of my favourite mentors Jay Shetty says, is continuously running, instead of walking. It’s like you’re living life on a threadmill, without stopping, and pushing through (mostly) work. I hope these mindfulness practices and tips help you to check in more often with yourself and be mindful of the things you do, so you can stop running, and start walking at your own pace, in peace and with purpose.
If you want to start living a more mindful life, grab your free copy of my e-book, a guide to Mindful Living! Why for free? Because I deserve everyone deserves peace. And this year has been challenging enough. It’s a little gift to you, from me.
Another resource on Black Friday promotion right now is my 10-day mindfulness & self-growth course Flow. You’ll learn all about meditation, mindfulness, overcoming limiting beliefs, shifting your mindset, practising gratitude, developing healthy habits and so much more! Claim your 50% off before the price goes up again. ⏰