The holidays are a time for family, festivity, and feasts. They are also a time for stress. Lots and lots of stress. Unfortunately, the feel-good holiday movies, jaunty Christmas tunes, and decked out dinner spreads of the season tend to come with a catch – namely, the anxiety-inducing struggle of finding just the right gifts for your loved ones, or the stress of dealing with the influx of personal inquiries that come your way from relatives you didn’t even realize you had.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can keep the stress of the season in check, from working out (the holiday season is no excuse to skimp on your fitness, people) to setting aside a bit of time to meditate regularly. Of course, when time is of the essence and you’re not quite sure when to squeeze in the usual stress-busting tips, you’re best bet to combat stress might just be tapping into your five senses.
According to mindfulness speaker and author of “Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind,” Joy Rains, remaining tuned into your senses during the holidays is an effective way to combat the effects of different seasonal stressors. “Simply keeping your awareness in the present moment, instead of getting caught up in thoughts about the past or the future, is a scientifically proven way to relieve stress,” she says. “You don’t need to sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed to meditate. You can practice anytime simply by noticing what you experience through your five senses.”
Basically, what Rains suggests is finding ways to practice mindfulness – a form of relaxing meditation in itself, really – while taking part in all of your usual holiday activities. Finishing up your shopping? Let yourself get a little lost in sounds of the shoppers, salespeople, and chatter around you instead of getting frazzled by the noise and trying to tune it all out. Doing a little holiday baking? Allow yourself to be fully present at every step along the way instead of just robotically working through a recipe. Finally unwrapping your gifts? Focus on the sounds of the ripping paper or the ruffling of tissue paper in your gift bag.
The key, according to Rains, is finding ways to be “in the moment” throughout the holiday season, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside time to relax or meditate. By focusing on engaging your senses, you ultimately let yourself take on the holiday season with full awareness as opposed to a mindlessness that we often get swept up in with the madness. And hey, if being more present means you get meditation points while finishing up your regular holiday to-do’s, it’s definitely not a bad deal.