10 Mindfulness Tips to Combat Holiday Stress

life-coach-washington-dc-2It’s mid-December, and the holiday season is in full swing! If you’re like me, you’re enjoying the fun, the family, the celebrations, the mad dash to finish things up before the end of the year. It’s exciting! But more often than not, all that energy and excitement can leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed and overindulged.

Several of you participated in November’s holiday challenge, which I posted on the blog about a month ago. I encouraged each of you to, above all else this holiday season, be the one who listens – to the people around you, to yourself, to the season itself. One reader told me that it was just the tip she needed when gathering with family. Thank you for the positive feedback!

Hanukkah is already here, and with Christmas and New Year’s right around the corner, we’re really moving into the thick of it. It’s timely for a list of mindful antidotes for common stressors that pop up this time of year.

This Holiday, Be Mindful to …

1. Take breaks.

If your schedule like mine is chock-full of work and personal holiday parties, these back-to-back celebrations can start to feel overwhelming. Leave yourself time to be a human being and not just a human doing during the holidays. Give yourself some time to do absolutely nothing – or say “no” when you feel tired or overextended.

2. Hydrate.

In winter, we’re not as mindful about drinking water and dehydration can crop up as a result. When at a party or holiday gathering, consider making sparkling water your beverage of choice and save the wine and champagne for the meal or the toast. Or to prevent yourself from drinking too much, alternate each cocktail with a full glass of water.

3. Smart eating.

At the holidays, we are inundated with mass amounts of food – often the type of food we wouldn’t be caught eating during the rest of the year. There’s no reason to deprive yourself, but smart eating at this time of year can be so important. Instead of thinking about your waistline, think about how eating in moderation leads to better sleep, more productive days and a healthier outlook.

4. Practice self-care.

This isn’t entirely selfish. Taking care of yourself allows you to be able to be more attentive and calmer when you’re with others during the holidays. Don’t neglect yourself in the name of everything that has to be done “for the family” or to close out the books at work. In other words, don’t be a martyr to the holiday season. You’ll likely find that when you take excellent care of yourself, it is possible to be kinder and more giving to others.

5. Observe, stay curious and grateful.

Around the holidays, there’s pressure: what is expected of me at this family gathering? Will the person I care about accept my gift in the spirit in which it was intended? Pressure can also manifest as loneliness, when we long to spend the holidays with someone we can’t be close to for whatever reason.

But what if you were to observe others with curiosity, rather than judgment? They certainly are feeling the same holiday pressures. If we can approach things with a spirit of curiosity and gratitude, we’ll certainly see things we hadn’t noticed before.

6. Family: Be the solution.

Based on not-so-pleasant past experiences, combined with the upcoming impending mix of different personalities, many of us worry about family drama cropping up during the holidays. Of course there are often very real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of our family. But this year, instead of getting caught up in fuelling the fire, commit to being the solution or helping to keep the peace.

7. Listen to people.

Let’s keep our November challenge going! During the holidays, you spend time with people you may not see or talk with very often. The family gatherings and office parties offer opportunities to listen to people who need to be heard. Be mindful of the chances to listen without an agenda and be fully present.

8. Donate your time to help those less fortunate.

The holidays are a particularly poignant time to practice the art of compassion, to think of others needs before our own. There are so many opportunities to give during the holidays, including material things, smiles, time, and emotional support. This will certainly give your holidays more meaning.

9. The “true meaning.”

This time of year is full of expectations we put upon ourselves to get it just “right.” We may tell ourselves things have to look, taste, feel, and be a certain way. We may even think things have to be “perfect, which of course, is never possible. It is especially easy to get caught up other people’s expectations or the commercial version of what the holiday season means. But taking the time to mindfully reflect on what matters, whether it be our religion or tradition, or even the healing power of love, helps us to keep our perspective as the year draws to a close.

10. Practice gratitude.

If you have the capacity to read this post, it’s likely that you have more people, experiences and things in your life to be grateful for than you can possibly count. So start counting anyway, and when you get to 30 or so, pause, reflect and soak in the grateful feelings.

Consider the Gift of Life Coaching this Holiday Season

Need an ally in this work? Give the gift of life coaching to yourself or someone you love this holiday season – it might be the best gift of all! Schedule your free initial Life Coaching consultation today. We’ll chart the processes you need to tune into that still, small voice of your values and intuition, approach every season of your life with intention, and revolutionize your relationships with active listening. Let’s explore how you can have what you want and live with more ease, freedom, joy and meaningful connection to those around you. It can be now and it can be simple.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.

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The DC Life Coach’s Holiday Challenge: 7 Ways to Listen

dc-life-coach-holiday-challengeLast year around this time, I wrote about setting a positive intention for the holiday season. Everything in life is a choice, even during the holiday season. The bottom line of that message for the holidays was this: a life of “have-to’s” creates more stress, overwhelm and discontent. I challenged my readers to swap out the “have-to’s” on their holiday to-do list with “want-to’s.”

I was thrilled with the results of this challenge. Several readers wrote me saying that instead of moving through the holiday season reacting to the world around them, they were able to set an intention to create the holiday season they wanted. From one reader:

“This post changed my Christmas experience! I didn’t use my sterling silver OR my good Bermuda linens!”

They created more:

  • joy
  • love
  • belonging
  • gratitude
  • creativity

… and less:

  • perfectionism
  • certainty
  • exhaustion
  • self-sufficiency
  • judgement

They felt happier and had a better holiday season as a result!

This Year’s Holiday Life Coaching Challenge: Practice My “7 Ways to Listen”

I’ve written about gratitude in the past, but I’ve discovered that most of us get it utterly wrong. More often than not, human beings are a bit egocentric by nature. We have a tendency to think and talk about ourselves even when we should be thinking and talking about others.

“Being listened to is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” ― David Augsburger

As we approach Thanksgiving, a time when we focus on gratitude, ask yourself: what are you thankful for – and what are you really craving?

Time with your children or grandchildren? Time in nature? Time to yourself, to just unplug and relax?

I believe that when we dig deeper, what we’re all craving is connection – to nature, to those we love, even to ourselves. This is rooted in living in the present moment, and practicing gratitude. How can we then mindfully create the world we want to live in this holiday season, one full of this type of connection?

The Life Coach Says: “I’m Listening.”

I used this phrase with a client recently, who was going through a rough patch. She quickly told me that it was the most powerful thing she’d heard in a while.

As a Life Coach, it’s my job to listen. But I believe that especially during the holidays, if we learn to listen first, we can truly revolutionize all of our relationships – even our relationship with ourselves. As the old adage goes, that’s why we have two ears … and one mouth. So we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Here are my top 7 mindful listening practices you can start using this holiday season to help transform your conversations:

1. Put your brain in gear before putting your mouth in motion. Instead of thinking through your response when someone else is talking, take your time. Focus on the other person’s words and what they’re actually saying. When it’s your turn to speak, mindfully pause and let the words come to you.

2. Be present. We may think we can predict exactly what someone else will say, especially if we know them well, so our minds wander. To pull yourself out of this habit (no matter how repetitive you think the conversation is!), practice mindfulness by focusing on the words that are being said at the present moment. You will almost certainly begin to hear things you’ve never heard before.

3. Listen without prejudice. Try to catch yourself labeling the other person’s words, or putting them into a category in your mind. Observe the words without putting a judgment on the words.

4. Let go of agenda. Many successful people have been trained to focus on the outcome of every interaction. They may get what they want in business, but often “check out” when speaking to a friend, spouse or loved one. The result: lots of hurt feelings when the other person’s needs, hopes or wishes aren’t heard. To listen mindfully, you’ll need to let go of having an end result. Let yourself simply “be” in the conversation. I predict that not only will you begin to enjoy the conversation more, but you’ll probably get more out of it, too.

5. Prompt yourself to continue to be mindful with your speech. Summarizing the other person’s words (“here’s what I hear you saying,”) and asking for permission to respond (“I’ve formed some views based on what you said. Would you like me to share them?”) are great ways to remind yourself that you are actively, mindfully listening. For more tips on how to mindfully listen to others, read my previous post, “Revolutionize Your Conversations With Mindful Listening.”

6. Listen to nature. Look around you. Notice what the birds and beasts are doing. I’ve noticed my (dog? cat? Do you have an animal?) for one is taking more time to rest. Shorter days and longer nights are nature’s signal to all of us to go easier on ourselves in preparation for the colder days ahead. We all have the ability to tune into our own circadian rhythms and take more time for self-care and rest, even when the world around us is pushing us to go faster and harder this holiday season.

7. Listen to yourself. Just as each day unfolds from dawn to dusk, so does our full life span. As we move through the seasons of our lives, if we really listen we will observe that each phase offers opportunities to grow in character, compassion, understanding, and self-awareness. Taking a private moment to mindfully listen to yourself is just as important as listening to other people when they speak. At first, when you are quiet, you might hear that constant voice inside your head, telling you all the things you should worry about, predicting all the ways you’ll fail, telling you all your perceived strengths and weaknesses. But as you delve deeper, you will discover that this is not you at all. When you’re able to turn down the volume of that false self-talk and tune into the still small voice of awareness or intuition, you’ll begin to operate from a place of more precision and joy. This is the place from which you can begin to tune into who you really are, what you really want, and swap out the “have-to’s” on your holiday to-do list with “want-to’s.”

The Life Coach’s Holiday Challenge to You

headshot-facebookImplement these 7 tips this holiday season – I would love to hear what happens! My prediction: you will become more likable, friendly and better able learn from every conversation you have – and you’ll also enjoy your own company a whole lot more!

Need an ally in this work? Schedule your free initial Life Coaching consultation today. We’ll chart the processes you need to tune into that still, small voice of your values and intuition, approach this holiday season with intention, and revolutionize your relationships with active listening. Let’s explore how you can have what you want and live with more ease, freedom, joy and meaningful connection to those around you.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.

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