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In my family, I’m the magic behind the holidays. Whether it’s searching for the perfect gift, preparing a dish for a family gathering, or making sure my 8-year-old has a seasonal (and clean) outfit for his school party, I make it happen. My brain seems to be built for all the multitasking madness the season holds. Even though taking on the roles of Santa, head chef, and scheduling director can put me in the holiday spirit, there are times all the busyness can bring my spirits down.
When the holidays hit, I feel the pressure build. My already extensive to-do list grows longer than St. Nick’s, and eventually I find myself looking for sneaky ways to escape, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. When I start wondering if I can hide out in the bathroom eating all the gingerbread, I know I’m on my way to being totally burned out.
“Signs of burnout are different for everyone, but common emotional indicators are feelings of avoidance, short-temperedness, and sensations of being overwhelmed,” according to mindfulness educator Jessica Sharpenstein.
During the holiday rush, I find myself struggling with all of these feels at some point. That’s why this year, I’m going to be unwrapping some new techniques on mindfulness to help me stay grounded.
“Mindfulness puts a pause before action,” Sharpenstein says. “The practice of mindfulness allows us to ask ourselves ‘Why?’ Then we can take inspired intentional actions based on that pause.”
Practicing mindfulness helps us stay more objective and connected to ourselves so we don’t feel trapped in overpowering emotions — a helpful tool during stressful times. So, here are three ways to practice mindfulness and find relief when the holiday season threatens to burn us out.
Set Your Intention
’Tis the season to be jolly and tense. The holidays can leave your brain and body feeling tired and tapped out, so ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?” Maybe you’d like to be more present or feel more fulfilled. Sharpenstein says to let these intentions be your North Star during this time. “Then use guiding questions with your intentions like, ‘Will this help me feel more present or fulfilled?’ before you take action,” she advises.
Breathe Into Your Expectations
Setting high — and sometimes unrealistic — expectations for all that should be accomplished can be a huge stressor. “Pause for 30 seconds, take a breath, and check in,” Sharpenstein says. “And, ask yourself whose expectations you’re trying to live up to. Is it family? Is it your own perfectionism? Then maybe step back from that expectation.” Tuning in and understanding the expectations that propel you can relieve holiday pressures before they build to bursting.
Ask for Help
Sharpenstein says to be sure to remind yourself you don’t have to do it all. It can feel vulnerable asking for help, but taking this step creates a positive space for connection with others and lightens your workload. Reaching out can also look like phoning a friend and talking about your experience. “You can say, ‘I don’t need you to fix this. I only need for you to listen,’” Sharpenstein says.
If you wake up to feelings of burnout during the holidays, know you’re not alone. Sharpenstein reminds you to take those centering pauses and remember to show yourself compassion when tough feelings come up. It’s also a good idea to “flip the script” when you can. “Rather than just focusing on all you feel you haven’t done, you can reframe that and look at all you have done,” she says.
Practicing mindfulness can help revive your mind and body, so you have the energy you need to create that holiday magic. This year, I’m ready to show off my new mindfulness skills, quit hiding in the bathroom, and save some of that yummy gingerbread for my family — because I’m thinking it’s time to enjoy some of that holiday magic, too.