Prepping to make the holidays perfect can be a recipe for season-spoiling stress. Mindfulness expert Dr. Michael Krasner offers advice for approaching the season with intention, attention and an attitude that will help you make the most of what really matters at this hectic time of year.
It often seems as though the holidays are here and gone before we know it. So much preparation goes into making the perfect Thanksgiving Day spread or finding the perfect present. This year, rather than seeking perfection, why not choose to approach the holidays with mindfulness?
What is mindfulness?
The meaning often gets lost in the overuse of the word, but mindfulness is a natural human quality that we can draw upon at any time. Simply put, it is awareness—the capacity to see things as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be.
Three facets of mindfulness help us remember its meaning and how to bring it into action:
- Intention: being awake and aware
- Attention: focusing on what is happening in the moment
- Attitude: being open, compassionate and non-judgmental
How does mindfulness help with stress?
We experience stress as a mismatch between reality (how things really are) and our expectations (how we’d like them to be). When we’re overwhelmed or stressed, we often feel that we lack the resources to manage the experience or situation we’re in.
To build the resources you need to better manage stress, turn toward that experience or situation, opening up to your actual feelings and thoughts, and staying present and mindful of them in those moments. The “now” may be chaotic, but it’s OK to experience that chaos. In this way, you can learn to better manage each moment as it arises, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole thing.
How can you practice mindfulness during the holidays?
We can think of human beings as human doings, constantly flitting from one thing to the next, from one thought to the next, from one task to the next. These simple practices may help you experience the being that is informing your doing, and bring you into the present moment:
- STOP: Stop. Take a Breath. Observe. Proceed. Try doing this in the span of a single breath.
- Take a 3-minute breathing space. For the first minute, ask yourself, “How are things right now?” In the next minute, focus on your breathing, and bring awareness to the present moment. In the final minute, check-in with yourself again, asking, “How are things right now?” Feel how you’ve changed from the beginning to end of the process.
- Come to your senses whenever you can. Take time to use your senses during each activity, big or small. Whether it’s the aroma or texture of the turkey, wrapping or un-wrapping a present or walking into the homes of friends and family, consciously admire how the experience of the only moments you have to celebrate the holiday—which are always occurring in the now—make you feel. Your presence is one of the best presents.
Want to learn more? The Center for Community Health & Prevention of URMC offers Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs for individuals looking to explore the studied practice of living mindfully, and discover how meditation exercises can help provide more balance, stability and satisfaction. For information or to register, click here.
Michael Krasner, MD, FACP, is a professor of clinical medicine and facilitator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program provided by the Center for Community Health & Prevention of URMC, and as part of the University of Rochester’s Well-U lifestyle management program.