Sadly, the holidays and stress have become synonymous for far too many of us. The pressure of family and guests, gift-buying, travel, year-end finances, fond memories of relationships and happier times too far removed are all stressors that turn what should be a celebratory time of year into anything but.
According to an American Psychological Association study, 69 percent of those surveyed felt increased stress during the holidays from a perceived lack of time; 69 percent also said a lack of money upped their stress; and similarly 51 percent of respondents experienced stress from the pressure to buy and give gifts.
Just as mindfulness practices can help relieve stress the balance of the year, mindfulness can play a particularly important role during the end-of-year holiday season, and not just for stress reduction, but for enhanced enjoyment of the holiday season itself.
In that spirit, I encourage you not just to focus on your personal mindfulness journey, but consider those around you grappling with challenges unseen, as well. Give the gift of mindfulness this time of year, a time that can promote wanting, striving and immediate gratification, all causing us to quite possibly lose sight of what the season truly has to offer.
There is no shortage of gift-giving guides, online, in print and on television. I found such a list quite illuminating at Buddhaimonia.com; I encourage you to check out the whole list (“The Mindful Holiday Gift Guide,” by Matt Valentine), but for me, the list began and ended with this simple idea: Give the gift of the Holidays themselves. As Valentine concedes, this might sound funny – if not paradoxical – but giving the gift of the holidays can be one of the greatest gifts you give someone.
Valentine suggests that the aromas of pine trees, snowy landscapes, fun activities, and abundant merriment are really what embody the holidays.
Truly, nowhere does he mention the commercial side of the holidays, instead embracing sensory experiences – the snow, decorating a Christmas tree, listening to holiday music and enjoying the presence of friends, family and co-workers – as means of living in the moment. Contribute to the others’ enjoyment of the season by spending time with them , just being together is truly a great gift .
Consider checking in with people more frequently this season, writes China Gorman at GreatPlaceToWork.com. A simple “how are you doing” can brighten a day, she says, including co-workers and employees, the human resource expert advocates.
Likewise, cultivate a sense of compassion first and foremost for yourself as well as for others. This is a priceless gift to give yourself , your loved ones and all beings on the earth this season and beyond. By taking of yourself you are much better able to handle the demands of the holiday season and to be there for others. We all know You can’t give away what you don’t have yourself. Undeniably, the holidays tend to be stressful and coping with this stress in a healthy effective way is paramount. Go easy on yourself and others, offering up some compassion when things seem to getting chaotic. Sense your breath flowing in and out of your body and offer wishes of loving kindness:
- May I and those around me be peaceful and at ease.
- May we be patient and accepting with ourselves and one another.
- May we experience the joy and true spirit of the season.
- May we be well and live in safety and may we all be happy.
My wish for you is a Holiday Season full of gratitude and harmony. Live in the moment and let the stress of the season be tucked far away in your closet with that ugly sweater.