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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Martin-Himmons

How To Avoid Stress By Practicing Mindfulness During The Holiday Season

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

A snowy background with three snowflakes in the foreground and the words holiday season

Are the holidays the “most wonderful time of year” for you or the most stressful?

As a family caregiver, the holidays, while joyful and full of fun, can also be super stressful. You’ve got caregiving duties, work, and family obligations not to mention decorating and gifts to buy. And if you have house guests or are experiencing financial difficulties, there’s even more stress!

All of which can take away your holiday joy, making it more difficult for you to manage your stress before your stress manages you. But there’s something that can help you learn how to let the unnecessary stresses go and live in the moment.

It’s called mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the here and now - each moment you have during the holiday season and finally enjoy yourself again.

What Is Mindfulness?

For some, the concept of mindfulness can be scary, but it really isn’t! Mindfulness is just about focusing on the present moment you’re in. It’s about the here and now. You take out the judgment, regret, caregiver’s guilt or whatever other negative things you’re feeling and simply accept what is. The more you can be mindful during the holidays (and the rest of the year), the more grateful and stress-free you become.

Why Mindfulness Can Be Difficult During The Holiday Season

Mindfulness is something that you can do all year-round in addition to being something you can benefit from no matter what situations you’re dealing with. However, during the holidays, mindfulness can help you even more.

The Holidays Are A Challenge

A present, money, Christmas ornaments and a travel map on top of a purple background with the words holiday stress

No matter how much you love them, the holidays can be super stressful. It seems like it would be a joyous time to spend with your family, listen to some great music and eat special foods, but the opposite is often true. You’re trying so hard to make everything perfect and give your loved ones memories they can cherish, that you lose yourself (and your sanity) along the way.

Understanding where your stress comes from helps you to know where to focus with your mindfulness this time of year.

Why Are The Holidays So Stressful?

  • Family dynamics – Sometimes it’s hard for families to get along under the best of circumstances. Add the holiday season into the mix and old resentments can flare up.

  • There’s a ton to do – And very little time to do it in. You still have your regular responsibilities on top of extra duties related to the holidays. But what you don’t have is more time.

  • Financial issues – It can be a struggle to figure out how to pay for decorations, gifts, parties, traveling, and other holiday expenses in addition to your regular bills.

  • Travel time – Under the best of circumstances travel can be difficult. But during the holiday season, all of the moving parts (such as packing, logistics, and airports) can be enough to put anyone over the edge.

  • The expectations are usually different from reality – Even after you work hard to make everything “perfect”, things don’t always turn out how you planned.

  • Health concerns & overindulgence – At this time of year, sugary treats and rich foods are everywhere. Which can interfere with your nutrition and ability to sleep, leading to stress.

Because of this, mindfulness really comes in handy.

Mindfulness' Benefits

Being mindful during the holidays allows you to stay present and put your expectations aside so you can enjoy the moments you have with your loved ones.

  • Accepting the moment – Every moment you have is a gift. It might not always be what you expect or even what you want, but life isn’t about being perfect, especially during the holidays. It is about enjoying yourself, spending time with family and friends, and helping others.

  • Stress awareness – Mindfulness encourages you to be aware of your triggers so that you can be proactive in managing it.

  • Mindfulness helps you slow down – Taking a pause to reset by using mindfulness is one of the best things you can do to stay present during the hustle and bustle of the holidays and lessen your stress.

  • Memories are treasured – If you’re constantly thinking about the next thing that needs to be done makes it hard to hold on to your holiday memories. Do you want to remember the holidays as a time you spent with your loved ones, or when you were so busy and stressed that you missed out? Mindfulness can help it be the former.

  • Mindfulness encourages self-compassion – And self-compassion is one of the cornerstones of self-care. Self-compassion means being non-judgmental towards yourself and showing yourself the same kindness that you would show to another.

How To Stay Present In The Middle Of Chaos And Stress

It might seem impossible to engage in stress management and be present in the moment. But with just a few simple techniques and mindset shifts, you can be more mindful during the holidays.

Start Before The Holiday Season

A cup of green tea on a marble tabletop

Ease yourself into holiday mindfulness (if you don’t already have a mindfulness practice) by being more mindful before the holidays begin. This doesn’t have to be something really involved, it can be just sitting quietly and focusing on whatever you’re doing at that time. It might mean being quiet during a meal and focusing on each bite, sitting in your bedroom at night and reflecting on how each part of you feels or being mindful while taking a walk by really focusing on the things that you see.

Release Judgment

Mindfulness is a no judgment zone. Letting go of judgment and guilt is a big part of what mindfulness is about. When I talk about releasing judgment, I don’t just mean judgment of others, but also yourself, and the situations you find yourself in during the holiday season. Stop worrying about how you look, if the food is good enough, if your home perfect, etc. These thought patterns are negative and make it difficult to be mindful and appreciate the present moment. Instead, you want to engage in some positive self-talk.

Listen Mindfully

Practice mindful listening during family your gatherings. Be present and engage in conversations, giving your full attention to others, fostering deeper connections.

Have Mindful Meals

Mindfulness can work during any event or experience you have during the holidays, but a great time to practice it is while having meals with others. It can be your family holiday meal, at a party, or just at home to de-stress.

During your meals, shut off all distractions. This means no phone and no TV, although you may choose to have soothing music. Sit quietly and think about how you feel right then, during your meal. Focus on the flavors, the colors, the textures of what you are eating.

Eat without judgment, guilt, or any other emotions that doesn’t add to the satisfaction of your meal.

Daily Gratitude

Take a moment each day to reflect on what you're grateful for during the holiday season. This practice can shift your focus from stressors to positive aspects of your life.

Take a Pause for the Cause

Think of mindfulness as nothing more than taking a pause. It’s easy to get wrapped up in could’ve, would’ve, should’ve - what you should have done, what you still have to do, what is or isn’t perfect during the holidays. When you find that instead of enjoying time with family or friends, your mind is wandering, just take a pause (which can be as easy as taking a few deep breaths) and bring yourself back to the moment.

Gift Mindfully

Focus on thoughtful, meaningful gifts rather than getting caught up in the commercial aspects of the season.

Focus on the Moment, Not the Big Picture

When you’re being mindful, it’s helpful to remember to focus on the present, not the big picture. So that means rather than focusing on having the perfect holiday memory, instead, it’s about each little thing that made your holidays memorable.

Using Mindfulness After The Holidays Are Over

Once you’ve mastered being mindful during the most stressful time of year, it should be a cinch to continue being mindful during the rest of the year. And hey after the holiday season is over, you’ve got the perfect time to solidify your mindfulness practice in the new year!

Using Mindfulness For Your Resolutions

Many people see the new year as a time to begin anew. For many people, the new year is a time of self reflection which is perfect for mindfulness. If you have resolutions or goals you want to focus on in the year ahead, use mindfulness to help you.

It’ll allow you to get a fresh start for the year. But to have a successful mindfulness resolution, it’s important for you to understand what you really want, and what your passions are.

This is where mindfulness comes in.

Think about your current moment – What are you thinking about the most in this moment? What is bringing you joy? What is stressing you out? Being mindful NOW is will help you figure out what resolutions will help you in the future.

Keep being non-judgmental and non-critical – As I stated earlier, mindfulness takes a lot of the judgment and critical thinking about yourself, your past, and your choices away, reducing your stress and just allowing you to make mistakes (and learn from them) without regret. Keep doing this and think of goals for the year while remembering what makes you happy, not what you feel you need to do to “make up” for mistakes of the past.

Being Mindful Year-Round

After the holidays are over and the year has begun, keep taking pauses, enjoying your moments, expressing gratitude, and just enjoying your life. The more you can be mindful during each of those moments in your life, the happier you will be. It's all about Making Time.

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Let’s talk, how do you intend to be more mindful during the holidays? Let me know in the comments section.

Cassandra sitting in front of a white brick wall.

Cassandra Martin-Himmons, LMSW is a stress management coach and content creator who believes in empowering her clients to help them manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time she enjoys papercrafting, hand embroidery and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or YouTube.


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