Reduce Holiday Stress Using Mindfulness

Techniques will bring focus and peace to the season

The holiday season is thought to be the most wonderful time of year. However, stress and tension often accompany the gatherings, shopping and other tasks that fill a holiday to-do list.

The added stress can put a damper on the holiday and affect overall health. ThedaCare Behavioral Health counselors from Waupaca and New London offer mindfulness practices to bring a focus and peace to the season. Mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase empathy.

Practice mindful breathing. Breathing exercises are an easy way to clear the mind and bring it to the present. “Using meditation can help focus thoughts away from the stresses in your life,” said Laura Adams-Burkley, clinical social worker in New London.

Take breaks. It is easy to get caught up in the flurry of the holiday. But the body and mind need rest. “Take time each day to focus on rest,” said Michelle Hastings, counselor in Waupaca. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the to-do list, delegate tasks to others.

Sleep is also vital. Plan for seven hours of sleep. Avoid the phone, computer and television before bedtime. “Give yourself at least 30 minutes to wind down when heading to bed,” said Melissa Habeck, clinical social worker in New London.

Laugh. Studies show laughter can relieve tension and stress as the feel good hormones are released throughout the body. Lightening up about stressful or negative thoughts will allow you to be happy and more present in the moment. Remember that having fun and spending time with family is what the holiday season is all about. “Practicing mindfulness will help you cherish those special moments,” said Inez Trantow, counselor in New London. 

Be an active listener. Avoid distractions like telephones or television and instead face the person who is talking and avoid interrupting. “When you give your full attention, you are being present and communicating that you care,” said Adams-Burkley.

Eat mindfully. The holiday table is filled with many temptations. While savoring time with friends and family, also savor each dish. Slow down when eating and enjoy each bite. Avoid filling up on sweets and fatty foods just because it is the holiday season. Allow the body time to tell the brain when it is satisfied. “Meal time is also a great time to take the opportunity to take a deep breath, enjoy the moment, and reflect on all you are thankful for,” said Hastings.

Be grateful. Avoid dwelling on the negative aspects of the holidays. “We can practice an attitude of gratitude when we think about what we have instead of what we don’t have,” said Trantow. “Every day, take time to sit and think about the things to be grateful for. Even the smallest things have the biggest impact.”

Show kindness. Acts of kindness can be infused into a hectic holiday season. Consider blessing someone, which could help ease any tension, stress or anxiety they may be feeling.

Love yourself. Don’t feel guilty if the holiday does not go as expected. Do not engage in activities if they cause stress, pain, guilt or grief. Knowing limits and focusing energy into what can be done is important. “We need to love and take care of ourselves in order to care for others,” said Habeck.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.