The holiday season can be full of excitement, family, friends, and...busy-ness. Before your season becomes a blur of things to do and places to go, take some time to create intentional practices to help you slow down and appreciate the inspiration of the season. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Choose an intention: Use a word, image, or memory to guide your holiday season. Take some time to think about what you truly want from your experience this year, then allow that idea to become a touchstone for your time and energy. For example, if your guiding word this year is gratitude, think about how you can enliven that word in your life, perhaps through journaling, writing a holiday letter of thanks to your friends and family, or finding opportunities to express gratitude within your community.
2. Go outside. Getting outside, away from technology, is one of the best ways to slow down and appreciate the here and now. Being in nature calms the body, mind, and spirit, and beneficially affects the nervous system and immune system. Take time to walk in the woods. While you're there, stop to take notice of what you see, hear, and smell. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Plant yourself firmly and remind yourself that you, too, are part of the natural world.
3. Breathe! When we become busy and stressed, we change our breathing patterns, taking shorter breaths out of the chest rather than the relaxed, deep breaths that help us feel calm and balanced. Breath awareness techniques can help your mind and body establish a state of relaxation in which you can operate from a state of intentional response rather than stressful reaction. Here's a quick breath awareness tool you might try when you notice yourself feeling rushed and stressed:
Close your eyes if you can.
Breathe in and feel a touch of cool air at the tip of your nose.
Breathe out and feel a touch of warm air.
Notice how in each moment of breath awareness you are just here, just now, in the present moment.
4. Create and enjoy a homemade meal. In our focus on "getting it all done," we can forget to nourish ourselves. Whole, minimally processed food can reduce our stress levels, provide the energy we need to stay balanced, and remind us of the comfort of a good, healthy meal. Choose colorful veggies and fruits, savor the smells and sights of your meal, and enjoy it mindfully, one bite at a time.
5. Become deliberate with your bedtime. Nothing can take away from enjoying the season like sleep deprivation. Sleep is the time when our bodies rest, restore, and gather the resources necessary to wake up focused and ready for an intentional day. Especially during the busy holiday season, your body needs this time to reset. Adequate sleep helps the body to recover from stress, fight off illnesses, balance hormone levels associated with appetite and food cravings, and improve mood, just to name a few of the benefits of healthy sleep. If you are not waking up feeling rested, consider changing your bedtime routine to help you establish a calm state before bed. A few ideas include creating a consistent bedtime, turning off all technology at least one hour before bed, and avoiding substances that interfere with sleep (alcohol, sugar, caffeine, etc.). Treat yourself to a relaxing warm bath or cup of herbal tea and notice how your body can begin to relax and become calm before you get into bed.
Give yourself and those around you the gift of mindful presence this holiday season. Slow down and create a season of intention. Notice that you can find a moment of peace and joy, and take the time to absorb and extend that sensation.
Blessings to you all this holiday season -- Katie Winnell RN, BSN, NC-BC