It’s no secret that the holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year for many people. The holidays temporarily disrupt the normal flow of our society: business close down; people travel and people take time off of work; all of our normal TV and radio programming suddenly takes on a Christmas theme or is replaced by marathons of classic Christmas movies and carols; we feel obligated to spend time with family and friends; we worry about buying the right gifts and spending extra money we’re not able to afford… This sudden disruption to the ebb and flow of our typical schedules, plans, and everything around us causes many people to panic, lose compassion, and even get depressed.
I’d like to share with you three techniques you can do in under a minute to reduce your anxiety, increase your compassion, and improve your mood if at anytime you are feeling the weight of the holidays bearing down on you.
Two Focused Breaths
This is a very basic focused breathing technique to snap you back into the present and calm your nerves. Simply take a break from whatever you’re doing, and divert all of your attention to taking two mindful breaths. Focus on nothing other than the act of breathing while you take these breaths. If you have difficulty concentrating the first time, wait a second and then try again.
Even though the holidays are meant to be a time of compassion, some people actually lose empathy during the holiday season because of their frustration with it. If you think you might be lacking compassion at any point during the holidays, you can give yourself a quick boost using this technique. This is a great way to prepare yourself for having to sit across the dinner table with an awkward relative or in-law you’re not looking forward to seeing. Close your eyes and try to imagine someone — it can be a friend, relative, colleague, or even an imaginary stranger. Once you can see that person in your mind, try to wish them improved health, abundance and prosperity. If you find that you can’t do this, try picturing someone you love and can easily have empathy for before you try imaging a stranger or someone you do not particularly like, and then gradually work your way up to people whom you find it difficult to have empathy for.
Pick Up an Object
If you find yourself feeling depressed or upset because you are focusing on all of the things you hate about the holidays, give your mind a break from all of that analyzing and ruminating by taking one minute to pick up the nearest object and observe it. Do not think about the object, or try to analyze it in any sort of way; just look at it and notice as much as you can about it. This is an easy way to pull yourself back into the present and give your mind a chance to shift gears before it gets caught in a downward spiral.
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