‘Tis the season for things to get a little hectic.
Professionally, we scramble to tie up loose ends to create a fresh slate for the upcoming year and get clear on our mission. Personally, we might take the time to wind up the past twelve months by reflecting on what did and didn’t work for us and setting goals for the year ahead. Not to mention the fact that we’re often running around – celebrating, eating and egg-nogging with family, friends and co-workers and often shopping for the perfect gifts for the special people in our lives. And it’s precisely during all this hustle and bustle that it’s so important to take the time to be mindful. But what does that really mean and why is it good for us?
Being mindful is something that we can practice all the time to keep us centred to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s particularly effective to be mindful when we’re most busy to get us back to earth and give us some much-needed perspective. Being mindful is simply about being present with what we’re doing and not getting caught up in our heads.
Think about how often we go on auto-pilot on any given day. We’re a couple of blocks away from our house and question if we locked the door behind us or unplugged the iron. And of course we have – we just have no recollection of it.
Or what about those times we drive or walk to work and the whole way there is a blur. We get into the car, drive from A to B or walk our usual route, but really don’t remember it and certainly don’t catch anything new on our way. Or how about those times we throw the entire house upside down looking for something, convinced that whatever that thing is has somehow managed to disappear only to find it was right in front of our face the whole time. That’s autopilot.
Being mindful is about doing what we’re doing fully and experiencing the moment for what it is. I like to think of being mindful as doing mini-meditations during the day. When we’re aware of what we’re doing and experiencing the moment for what it is, we’re not getting caught up in judgements of the situation. We’re not judging ourselves, others or what’s happening around us. We aren’t creating undue stress.
So when we get ready in the morning, it’s about being aware of the water hitting our body as we shower instead of going through our to-do list. It’s about taking a new route to work and exploring a new area of the city or taking our usual route and making a conscious effort to see something new. It’s about really being part of a meeting at work by engaging in conversation, adding to a brainstorming session – as opposed to just showing up. Being mindful is about being an active participant in our lives. When we’re active participants, we’re happier, more productive and feel like we have more of a say in how we live our lives.
Here are 8 ways to be mindful and retain your sanity (and energy) during what could be the most hectic time of the year:
1. Eat and imbibe thoughtfully. It can be super tempting (and easy) to indulge non-stop on holiday chocolates, shortbread cookies, over-the-top sweetened alcoholic bevvies and brimming dinner spreads. We often eat all day simply because it’s there. When we take the time to chew our food and taste it, we’ll enjoy it more. And when we don’t stuff ourselves to oblivion, we’ll feel more energetic in the long run.
2. Give gifts from the heart. If we’re going to buy a gift for someone, it pays to take time to think about it. Let’s be real here. We all have plenty and don’t really ‘need’ anything. Rather than buying someone a trinket they’ll never use, put some thought into what they might like. Forgo a gift altogether and instead, spend some good quality time with those who matter most. Donate to a needy family. Make gift-giving count.
3. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Make it a daily habit to reflect on what you’re thankful for – people, experiences and situations in your life. The holidays can be stressful at times when we’re stretched to our wits end and sometimes family gatherings come with a little drama. Rather than focusing on what’s going wrong, focus on what’s going right.
4. Think of others but don’t neglect self-care. With winter setting in, the days are way shorter. As it gets colder, we also have the natural tendency to hibernate. All of which can sometimes get us feeling a bit in the dumps. As much as this time is about thinking of others, we truly are no good to anyone else if we don’t do the things we need to do to take care of ourselves.
5. Take some time to unplug. If you’re going to take some time off (which I hope you do) take that time off. When we’re hanging with family or friends, we can leave the iPhone in another room and not worry about emails and social media feeds – they’ll be there when we get back. If you can do it without breaking out into a full sweat, try to set a full day or two aside to live sans technology. You’d be surprised how much ‘extra’ time you’ll have on your hands when you’re not constantly checking in.
6. Try not to over-schedule. We often take this time of year to get together with people we haven’t seen all year. While the sentiment is lovely, this can lead to a packed schedule that depletes us of the time and energy we need for ourselves. Take a look at your schedule and be cognizant of when you’re stretching yourself thin. Our friends will understand if we need to postpone a holiday get-together for the New Year.
7. Enjoy the scenenery. Christmas lights, decorated store windows, snow-covered rooftops – take a look around! It’s so easy to take those small but cheery signs of the holiday for granted but they don’t last long. Go for a stroll with a hot chocolate and soak up the scene.
8. Stretch, move and breathe. When we’re busy we often throw out the ‘extra’ things we do to make room for obligations. That usually means that our exercise schedule, yoga classes, daily meditation and regular walks get kicked to the curb for other things. This goes back to our self-care. We know we’ll feel better when we’re working out as we regularly do and we also know how tough it can be to get back on schedule when we fall off the wagon. Stretch, move and breathe the way you see fit – whatever makes you feel good. And keep those things going over the holidays. Your body will thank you for it.