Leave the Past (And the Future) Out – Be Present for Holidays
Traditions can be a trap. So can over-the-top efforts to make this year’s holidays the best ever.
What happens when we’re busy remembering our bygone splendid memories or so focused on getting to the umpteenth gathering for the holidays? You lose out – you miss what’s happening right now – and it happens to us all.
Avera oncology social worker Lynne Hunter, MSW, said if you want to start with a definition of mindfulness, just stop and look around you.
“Mindfulness is being present – where you are at the moment you read this is a good illustration of being fully engaged in what you’re doing. You’re not considering what happened this morning, or what’s to come tomorrow – you’re instead focused on now,” said Hunter. “It’s a skill and like any skill, it comes with practice, and in order to benefit from it, you need to start with yourself.”
Compassion For Others – And For You
Hunter said that most of us are willing to be there for people in need, but that too often we turn a blind eye to our own needs.
“Self-compassion is often shelved by a big list of ‘shoulds’ – we feel we should be at all the gatherings, we should be out shopping for Christmas – we should have everything already done and be having fun. It’s really a trap that we can escape if we show kindness to ourselves and give ourselves more breaks,” she said. “When we do, we can be more mindful and in the now. That’s what balancing our busy lives is all about: being present!”
Hunter offered these tips as a map to mindfulness this holiday season:
Saying No Is NBD: It’s not a huge deal if you say no to an invitation or decide this year, you cannot make it to one of the gatherings. “Suggest a January supper together with some folks you might not see this year. It need not be a full-on family event – just a time to be with one another,” she said.
Perfection is Passé, So Put It Aside: “It’s good to remember past events and their magic, and it’s good to look forward to ones coming up, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make your gift, gathering or get-together ‘perfect’ – just enjoy it,” said Hunter.
Breathe to Be There: Almost everyone can get anxious about a big gathering or special time with folks they haven’t seen in months or years. But bring it back to your breathing and find a way to “be there.”
“Balance your rest and your play so you can be the best you during those gatherings, and if that means taking a break to focus on breathing and slowing things down, do it,” she said.
Take Tech Totally Out: Yes, our phones are so neat and new and can take pictures and connect us to everyone who’s not there – but they are also distracting. So this year, try your best to set ‘em aside or shut off the apps and just be with those you love.
Make the Simple Something Super: All the trappings of an over-the-top Christmas are grand, yes, but so too is a night out with friends having fun bowling or eating a pizza.
“Let go of exaggerated expectations – they can distract you and keep you from enjoying the moment,” said Hunter. “Planning your holiday schedule will help, too, but don’t feel you have to have an enchanted picture-perfect time with those you love – just be with them and enjoy it, no matter what you end up doing.”