Let's be honest, most of us find ourselves quite overwhelmed during the holidays. It usually begins with genuine excitement about all the upcoming events, only to be suddenly inundated with the pressures of planning and obligations. According to polls conducted by the American Psychiatric Association in 2021, merely contemplating the approaching holiday season resulted in an increase in stress and worry. A significant portion of this concern centered around the financial strain of affording and finding meaningful gifts. It's crucial to acknowledge that experiencing overwhelm during this season is a common phenomenon and to take proactive steps to alleviate those feelings.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Take a few minutes each day to engage in mindfulness or meditation exercise. This can help you center yourself, reduce stress, and bring a sense of calm amidst the holiday chaos. There are various techniques for practicing mindfulness and meditation, as different approaches resonate with different individuals. It's important to explore and find the method that best suits you, which may involve trying out different techniques.
5 Senses grounding technique
One particularly effective strategy, especially when feeling overwhelmed or stressed, is to use our senses to reconnect our minds with the present moment. You can start by focusing on your most dominant sense—often sight, though it could vary based on individual sensitivity. Identify five things related to that sense as quickly as possible. Then, move on to the next sense and pick out four things. To illustrate, here's an example:
- Name five things you can see.
- Name four things you can hear.
- Name three things you can touch.
- Name two things you can smell.
- Name one thing you can taste.
This exercise efficiently re-establishes your connection with the present moment, and it can be completed within seconds no matter your location.
The practice of mindful body scanning offers numerous benefits that significantly enhance your well-being. Primarily, it aids in stress reduction by releasing physical tension and activating the body's relaxation response, fostering a sense of calm. This straightforward exercise allows you to scan your body for tension and promptly release it. Similar to the previous suggestion, it can be performed virtually anywhere in just a few minutes.
To begin, choose whether you'd like to start scanning from your head or toes, and then proceed in the opposite direction, checking your body for tension. If tension is identified, take a moment to breathe in and out, facilitating the release of that tension. For more detailed information on this practice, refer to another of my blogs: Mindful Body Scan: Transform Your Workday in Just Minutes.
Connect with Nature: Step outside and immerse yourself in the natural world. Whether you choose to take a leisurely walk in the park or simply spend time in your backyard, nature possesses a grounding effect that can aid in regaining perspective. Reconnecting with nature serves as a wonderful means to reestablish a connection with the present moment and place stressors in their proper context. Additionally, it provides a moment to clear your thoughts from the busyness often associated with the holiday season.
A study published in 2022 found that 92% of participants experienced consistent improvement across all health outcomes when incorporating activities involving nature or outdoor environments (Nejade et al., 2022). It's not always feasible to step outside and immerse ourselves in nature every time stress arises. However, cultivating a habit of spending at least 5 to 10 minutes outdoors each day can contribute to reconnecting with the Earth. As demonstrated in the study mentioned earlier, this practice can positively impact our mindset and overall health, and the best part is, accessing nature comes at no cost.
Breathing Exercises: Engage in deep breathing exercises to soothe your nervous system. This uncomplicated yet highly effective technique can be practiced anywhere, providing immediate relief during busy and tense moments. We've all experienced situations where tension escalated to the point of forgetting to breathe—a common response to stress as our bodies tend to tighten up. When feeling overwhelmed, taking a few moments for deliberate, deep breaths can be immensely helpful in reducing stress.
Consider trying a simple breathing exercise known as box breathing to recenter yourself. Inhale to the count of 4, hold your breath for another count of 4, exhale for 4 counts, and repeat until you begin to feel more at ease. Similar to many other techniques shared here, this exercise can be done anywhere and at no cost. There's a wide array of breathing exercises available, and you need to explore and discover what works best for you. The effectiveness of these practices can vary from person to person, so finding the right fit is key to deriving the maximum benefits.
In embracing these techniques, we not only alleviate holiday stress but also cultivate habits contributing to long-term well-being. By prioritizing mental and physical health, we equip ourselves to savor the joys of the season and navigate busyness with grace.
(2021, November 1). Holiday [Powerpoint slides]. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Unassigned/APA_Holiday-Stress_PPT-REPORT_November-2021_update.pdf
Kaip, B. (2023, October 23). Mindful Body Scan: Transform Your Workday in Just Minutes. https://www.rpempowerment.com/mindful-body-scan-transform-your-workday-in-just-minutes/
Nejade, R. M., Grace, D., & Bowman, L. R. (2022). What is the impact of nature on human health? A scoping review of the literature. Journal of Global Health. https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.12.04099