During the hectic holiday season, it’s normal to have our stress levels go into overdrive. Holiday stress can trigger or worsen conditions like irritability, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, high levels of stress hormones like cortisol can actually impact cognitive function.
Ready to let go of stress and cruise through the holidays? Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve physical health and immunity.
Try these easy mindfulness-inspired tips for a stress-free season:
Reframe Your Stress. Research shows we can mitigate the health risks of being stressed out by considering stress a neutral or positive influence. The term “eustress” means healthy, positive stress, often in line with our goals and values. Reframe your stress in terms of how it’s helping you grow or the impact you’re making on the world around you. Learn more in Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk, “Make Stress Your Friend.”
Change the Channel. When you’re stuck in repetitive stressful or anxious thoughts, that is a moment of mindful awareness. Reorient yourself (and avoid amygdala activation) by changing the channel! Have a positive affirmation or thought ready for when you notice you need to shift gears. Ideas include “Everyone I love is safe,” or “I am at peace in this moment.”
Take a Deep Breath. Breathe into the belly to activate the parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system, and breathe out through your mouth to let go of any stale energy and stress. Repeat as needed.
Look at the Sky. When you are stuck in narrow or stressed-out thinking, it helps to orient your gaze toward something expansive like the sky or the ocean. Look up or look out and put your stress in perspective.
Smile. You can change your state of mind by changing your state of body! Even a forced smile has been shown to release feel-good endorphins and lower blood pressure. Combat stress by remembering to smile several times a day.
Enjoy Tech-Free Family Time. It’s easy to rely on our devices for entertainment, even when we are enjoying quality time around the holidays. Try declaring bits of tech-free time for you and your loved ones. You might consider opting for taking a family walk, cooking a meal together, playing a board game, or looking through old photo albums.
Choose a Gratitude Trigger. Gratitude is one of the most powerful, proven ways to improve mental and physical health. Choose a trigger behavior to cement gratitude as part of your daily routine. Example trigger behaviors include brushing your teeth, washing your hands, opening a door or eating a meal. Whatever the chosen behavior is, it becomes a reminder to recall at least one thing you’re grateful for!
Remember that a peaceful holiday season is the best gift you can give yourself this year.
“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” –Pema Chodron
Dorsey Standish is the Chief Mindfulness Officer at Mastermind Meditate in Dallas. Her mindfulness practice has helped her succeed at a Fortune 500 tech company, overcome mental illness, and ultimately connect more deeply with those around her. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend, 7-day and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness trainings at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.