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There are several things you can do to enjoy your holidays even more, and having mindful holidays is actually easy to do! Some people really love the holidays – the hustle and bustle, the travel, seeing people you maybe only see once a year, or simply just having the time off work.  For some it can make you feel full and festive, but it can feel fake and empty for others – maybe you get stressed out with all the energy you need to give towards family, gifts, travel, and all the things you are “supposed” to be doing.  Maybe the pressure of being happy is too high.

Any health or mindful focused website will tell you to just count your blessings and to breathe.  While this is true, it’s not enough and it’s not specific enough.  Of course we know we should count our blessings and breathe.  But what else can we do?

I want to address a few topics.

“I don’t really like my relatives, but have to spend time with them anyway.”

Yes!  We might be forced to see those few family members we don’t like as much. Try to identify what you don’t like about spending time with them.  Do they make judgemental comments about you? Is it just plain boring?  What is it that triggers you? Then have a plan.  For example, if people are making chippy comments to you, I try to have a sense of humor about it and I try to say to myself that they have different life views, morals, or opinions that I don’t have to agree with.  They are actually speaking their truth and  reality.  I don’t have to live my life like them or prioritize my time, finances, or goals to them.  If they have an opinion, I remind myself their life experiences dictate their perspective and it likely won’t match mine.  I suppose it is about empathizing with what they are trying to do (to help or give advice), but separating your emotions from it so you don’t take it as personally.  4 agreements- don’t take things personally.

You feel aimless

Traveling, making time to see other people or even doing activities you don’t normally do might make you feel restless, aimless, or even cause anxiety.  We get knocked out of our regular routine.  There are two things you can do.  If you thrive in routine, create a very small ritual or routine you can do every day to ground you.  Second is a mindset shift.  I’ll be the first to say that feeling aimless is hard for me but I’ve learned that it’s important.  It actually helps me feel more creative, hungry for goals, and motivated when I get back to my regular life.  Toning down your training or your work for a short period of time may feel scary like you’re going to lose fitness or get behind, but think big picture.  You don’t have to be doing something every second to make gains.  If aimlessness bothers you, it means you probably don’t feel that way often so try to remember that feeling restless or resting from your normal life actually IS doing something – it helps you recover from the burnout of your normal life.

The Food

This is a tough one. One big meal is not a make or break, but doing it repeatedly for weeks on end can set you back.  It’s hard to set boundaries when temptations are at an all-time high.  Do your best- set a foundation for adding in healthy things.  For example, if you ate too many cookies, add in healthy things later that day or tomorrow.  Go eat a handful of greens right out of the container or eat a piece of fruit.  Start adding in other foods that are easy and make you feel good to offset some of the higher fat, more refined foods that maybe you only enjoy during the holidays.  If you get off track, get back on track with the next thing you put on yourself.  Sometimes a few unhealthy meals turn into guilt and self-sabotage.  Enjoy what you’re eating, cut yourself some slack, but take action to immediately remind yourself of your normal habits.  Another trick is to use a smaller plate for big family meals.  You’ll have smaller portions of everything.  Want seconds? Wait just 3 minutes and have a glass of water before adding a second helping.  If you find yourself feeling guilty or beating yourself up, try to stop the story and just be curious about it. What does guilt feel like? Where do you feel it in your body?  Is it a permanent feeling?  When are times you felt the opposite of guilt?

Reflect

The holidays are a bookmark to the end of each year.  I like to take a few minutes with someone I care about and celebrate my successes for the year.  Talk about your favorite moments, what you’re most proud of for the year, or ways you’ve grown personally.  I write them down and revisit them on the days I’m feeling like I’m not good enough and it reminds me that I am.

Stay away from social if it makes you feel bad.

Perfect photos of people with their families, beautiful decorations, people baking… it can be fun and festive but it can also make you feel like crap if you feel FOMO or jealousy.  Try to be aware of how you feel while you are scrolling.  Remember that you are seeing hundreds of highlights from people. Those were just snippets in time and we tend to create an entire idealized story around that one second in time the person shared with you. You don’t know what really is going on. If you feel icky, delete the app from your phone for the day.   Another thing I think about with social media is try to pause before you tap the app to open it.  Ask, “why am I opening it?”  Lately, I admit I’ve felt a little lonely and I tap the app because I’m looking for connection, but then I feel worse after I scroll.  So now, if the answer is loneliness, I call or text an actual human being (or even make in person plans!) instead.

I get to… instead of I have to…

I’ve done an entire article and podcast on using these words.  I have to see family. I get to see family.  Changing that one simple phrase creates more gratitude around something that might feel like a chore and it might help you realize that things you feel like you have to do can actually be a privilege.

You hate sitting around

Oh I feel you on this one.  First, can you suggest things to get out and go do, even going for a walk?  Before you meet up with your group, write a list of experiences you think would be fun to go do and suggest them.  Or go to the other room and do a few pushups or stretches if that helps!  You can set boundaries around your time that people will get used to as well.  This might sound extreme, but I actually write a schedule of some of my planned activities and put it on the fridge. Anyone is welcome to join me, but then people know that I’m going to spend 1-2 hours a day outside moving my body in advance.

Notice experiences that make your body feel like it is contracting or tightening and ones that make you feel like you’re expanding.

This IS where I think breathing can really help.  If someone is saying something that offends you, it feels like contracting. If you feel trapped into doing something you don’t want to do, it can feel like contracting.  Can you breathe into that contracted space? For me, I feel either my chest or the base of my neck contract. I breathe in through my nose and imagine liquid sunlight melting the tightness away.  Notice when you are doing activities or spending time with people who make you feel open and expanding.  Can add in more of that?  Just knowing what or who helps you feel that way can help add more contentment to your day.

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