Published: Mar. 28, 2006
Updated: Mar. 25, 2010
Are you already feeling some stress at the very thought of the upcoming holiday season? If so, you are not alone. And, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Instead of being overwhelmed or exhausted by the many demands of the holidays, you can take a different approach -- one involving more “being” and less “doing.” The results could mean you connect more fully with your holiday experiences, and your life in general, and you begin to feel more alive and present in the new year.
We human beings have within us the capacity for deep calm and ease, and an awareness that reflects accurately what is happening in the present moment. “Mindfulness” is a name for this awareness.
Mindfulness arises when you pay attention on purpose without judging and in a friendly, allowing way. By paying attention this way and establishing mindfulness of your inner and outer life, moment-by-moment, a certain ease arises, and you can connect more deeply with what is happening. You are less likely to be hijacked by the urgency of the stress reaction.
"Stress" is the term often used to describe the experience of meeting life’s challenges and demands. What this includes is your total response -- in mind, body, and spirit -- to these demands, or "stressors."
The experience of the "stress response" involves multiple systems. Familiar examples are the tightening of muscles, increased heart and breathing rates, interruption and disruption of digestive processes, and an array of cognitive and emotional changes such as slowed thinking, poor concentration, irritability, and anxiety.
When the stressor/demand extends over time -- such as an illness in a loved one; or the schedule disruptions of the holiday season, the stress response becomes extended over time as well.
The effects on the body begin to mount in such a "chronic" stress environment. Signs of physical and emotional fatigue begin to appear. Disruptions in the sense of physical, emotional, and even social well-being arise under chronic stress.
Holiday activities can add stress in many ways. For example, there are likely to be more things to do, more disruptions of your usual routines of life, more disturbances of rest and sleep, and changes in what you eat and drink. While many of these are enjoyable, they can take a toll on body, mind, and spirit.
And don't forget "time stress" -- the feeling of never having time enough to do what is needed. It is often experienced as a restlessness and uneasiness, and may appear as legs or feet shaking vigorously as if to say "Hurry up, let's go" to the rest of the body.
What can you do to gain freedom from this seemingly endless round of busyness?
Remember, inner peace exists outside the domain of time. Learn to connect and "be" with what is here. This will lead you to dwell more in your own inner stillness regardless of the outer circumstances. As you do that, you will surely be "home for the holidays."
Mindfulness of breathing: An exercise for paying attention to the breath as a way to stop "doing" and start "being." This way of being with the breath as it flows in and out enables a deeper and richer connection with life itself, moment by moment.