Meditate Your Way Through Holiday Stress

The holiday season conjures up all kinds of association. In a perfect world, this time of twinkles and togetherness would bring about positive emotions such as joy and connection, but in reality, it’s often colored with stress and anxiety. So how can we deal with times of stress in a healthy, mindful way?

As a yoga instructor, who practices mindfulness in my personal life and teaches it in my professional life, I want to offer some realistic ways to adopt a mindfulness practice. In turn, during the coming weeks you can use these tips when you’re feeling more mad than merry.

Infuse it into your day.

Meditation is an intentional practice, often done in a seated and quiet position. Give yourself permission to only meditate for a few minutes and know that any time spent in meditation is beneficial. Meditation is not the only way to practice and extract the benefits of mindfulness. While meditation is a practice, mindfulness is simply a way of being.

Mindfulness is paying attention with awareness in the present moment. We can practice mindfulness in any part of life, by intentionally being aware and present as we walk, eat, work, talk, drive, or work out. Try simply noticing what your food tastes like, what the ground feels like below your feet, or the smell of your surroundings, and know that you are bringing mindfulness into your life.

Take it off your to-do list.

Rather than thinking of meditation as a task to accomplish, allow it to become a practice you choose. Remind yourself that meditating effectively does not mean reaching a desired outcome or state. Instead of trying to achieve a quiet, calm mind, simply notice what it’s like to have a busy mind. Noticing the mind is the act of being mindful.

Instead of trying to master meditation in a way you think it should look or feel, open up to the present moment by accepting your true experience, even if it feels far from peaceful. Meditation is about bringing awareness back to the present moment over and over, whatever that experience is.

Be playful and flexible.

Most importantly, try to be flexible and forgiving as your meditation practice changes based on your life and needs. It is not realistic to expect our practice to be the same each day, as that can set the stage for disappointment. Instead, allow your practice to constantly adapt to your life. Acknowledge that the practice of noticing the present moment can be flexible and integrated in many ways, times, forms, and degrees and still positively affect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Take a walk.

Moving meditation might be at the top of my list. It forces us to connect with the sensations in our bodies and get out of our heads and into the present. Move in slow motion, like you’re walking through water. As you pull one leg forward, notice the contraction of your quadriceps, and then be mindful of your knee joint as you straighten your leg. Note what you feel beneath your feet as you lean forward, readying yourself to bring the opposite leg into motion. Taking time to notice each small action of this complex task will anchor you squarely in the moment, leaving stressful thoughts behind.

Breathe, relax your muscles, roll your shoulders back. See the benefits of your mindfulness practice this season by starting today!

Written by Courtney Keeshan – Yoga Instructor