The holidays can be a jolly time filled with joy and excitement, but they can also be very stressful.
One reason for that stress is our expectation that everything has to be perfect, from the meals to the decorations to the gifts. Sometimes that’s not possible.
“The holidays bring with them so many challenges for people in so many different ways that sometimes we want to get involved in all the happiness and joy, but sometimes that stress just kind of brings us down a notch and we really can’t experience it to its full extent,” says Marissa Jarrett, onsite well-being coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Avoiding holiday stress
On this episode of “A Healthier Michigan Podcast,” host Chuck Gaidica is joined by Jarrett. They discuss the importance and benefits of mindfulness, especially around the holidays, and explore the following topics:
- How we can taper expectations during the holidays.
- The benefits of creating an action plan.
- Small things we can do to be more mindful and present.
- How mindfulness impacts our mental health.
Jarrett recommends practicing self-compassion, practicing gratitude, and being aware of what you can and can’t control. By being willing to let go of things that you can’t control, you can enjoy the season by being with your family and friends, and being present. It’s not about giving, it’s about being present.
Here are some of Jarrett’s strategies for reducing holiday stress:
Action plan. Writing out an action plan can help keep you on track. Begin by asking yourself what you really want to do this holiday season. Make sure your plan includes carving out time to take care of yourself. Spend time in the morning planning your day, doing some reflection, and making a list of what needs to get done. Also, make up a backup plan in case things don’t go according to plan so you are prepared to handle what could be stressful situations.
Being mindful begins by slowing down, taking those breaths and focusing on what’s important to you now. If you really want to have the perfect holiday, slow down and notice your blessings. When you slow down, you can savor those moments with family and make the season even more special. Focus on the time you have with loved ones. It can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Be present. To really connect with your family, whether over a good meal or sitting by a fire and having open conversations, you’ll want to look them in the eye and pay attention to their body language. If you have your face in your phone or another tech device, you’re not going to be able to pay attention to them. Put your devices away.
Express gratitude. Don’t go to bed without writing down a few things that you’re grateful for, or start your day with a grateful intention. Instead of trying to find that perfect gift for somebody, try writing a gratitude letter about that person that you read to them, whether at dinner or via video chat.
Take a breath. When you’re feeling stressed, just taking in oxygen is a way to breathe in peace and positivity and let go of negativity. Many studies show that mindfulness and meditation can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, among other positive side effects. It improves our memory, our focus, our cognition. It helps improve relationships, it helps with compassion, it helps make us a little bit more empathetic to others.
Live in the moment
“If you really want to embrace the joy of the season, just make time throughout the day to be mindful of what you’re doing,” Jarrett said. “Even when you’re sitting down to eat a meal, you can be mindful about what you’re eating, think about what you’re eating, and pay attention to the sounds, the texture and the flavors. I think we just need to slow down and live in the moment and accept what is.”
Mindfulness can be done anywhere. Every Wednesday at noon, Jarrett does a live meditation ranging from two to 15 minutes. You don’t have to be a Blues member to use them. Go to bluecrossvirtualwellbeing.com to register for the meditations or find others on demand. You can also check out the Snowy Yak Meditation that she mentions in the episode.
Listen to this episode of “A Healthier Michigan Podcast” to hear the entire conversation about the importance and benefits of mindfulness, especially around the holidays.
- Healthy Holidays
- How Harmful are the Holidays to my Gut Health?
- Ways to Support Someone Who Is Grieving During the Holidays
Photo credit: Getty Images