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4 Mindful Tips to De-Stress This Holiday Season

An excerpt from 10 Challenges Facing Public Education Today

ot feeling particularly cheery this time of year? You’re not alone. Many find that the holidays bring as much stress as they do joy. But there are ways to ease through the season. To help make the most of your festivities, Neda Gould, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shares some mindful tips.

What is mindfulness? “Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment with an element of nonjudgment and acceptance. It is noticing when we get caught up in thoughts about the past or the future, and returning our attention to the present — the only reality,” explains Gould.

While mindfulness can be a formal meditation practice, there are also informal ways to practice this skill. This can give us perspective and decrease stress.

Gould shares four ways to make your holidays brighter:

Accept Imperfection

Can good be good enough? “As we gear up for the holidays, we often set the bar impossibly high for ourselves and then feel upset when our celebrations don’t live up to expectations,” says Gould.

Before you start preparing, acknowledge that things may not go exactly as planned. “It’s OK if it’s not perfect. Imperfection is healthy and normal. For some of us, it might just take a little practice,” reminds Gould.

Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Counts

With long lines and nasty traffic, the holidays can get hectic. When overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, ask yourself:


  • Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things? If you’re frustrated by the long grocery line you’re standing in, remember that it is just a long grocery line — nothing more. Don’t let it spoil your afternoon.
  • Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect? While the cashier rings up the customers ahead of you, take inventory of the good things that have happened today or the things you are grateful for.
  • Even if this moment seems stressful, can I find a way to make it pleasant? Connect with someone else in line with a compliment or kind gesture, or notice what’s around you with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Respond with Kindness

You can’t change how others act during the stresses of the holiday season, but you can change how you respond to situations:

  • “Whenever I encounter a difficult person, I tell myself, ‘this person is suffering, and that’s why they’re acting this way.’ It softens my frustration, helps me be more compassionate and reminds me that it’s not personal,” says Gould.
  • Keep in mind that the holidays are especially difficult for those who are alone. See if you can extend an act of kindness to those you know are without family and friends during this time of year.
  • If things do get tense with someone, take a few deep breaths. “Those few breaths can shift things and give you new perspective,” says Gould.

Rethink Your Resolutions

“Typical New Year’s resolutions set you up for failure,” warns Gould. If you want to better yourself in the New Year, follow these tips for success:


  • Start small. Break your goal into tinier steps over the course of the year. If weight loss is your goal, it doesn’t have to be drastic. Try to eat more veggies during your first month and gradually cut back on sweets throughout the next, suggests Gould.
  • Be kind to yourself. If you didn’t achieve last year’s resolution or stray from the path this time around, let it go. “We often contrive these stories (‘I’m never going to quit smoking!’) that only add to our distress,” says Gould. “With practice, we can notice this self-critic, let go of that negativity and pick our goals back up without the guilt or shame.”

Respond with Kindness

You can’t change how others act during the stresses of the holiday season, but you can change how you respond to situations:

  • “Whenever I encounter a difficult person, I tell myself, ‘this person is suffering, and that’s why they’re acting this way.’ It softens my frustration, helps me be more compassionate and reminds me that it’s not personal,” says Gould.
  • Keep in mind that the holidays are especially difficult for those who are alone. See if you can extend an act of kindness to those you know are without family and friends during this time of year.
  • If things do get tense with someone, take a few deep breaths. “Those few breaths can shift things and give you new perspective,” says Gould.

Full Article:


4 Mindful Tips to De-Stress This Holiday Season


 BY NEDA GOULD


Gould, Neda. “4 Mindful Tips to De-Stress This Holiday Season.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/4-mindful-tips-to-destress-this-holiday-season.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because as much as I personally enjoy the holidays, I know that it's not always a joyous time for all. Even for those who do look forward to them, all of the craziness can be incredibly draining, so it is important to take time for yourself and your mental health.

7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them

An excerpt from 10 Challenges Tiny Buddha by Henri Junttila

1.

Mindfulness takes ongoing effort.
Mindfulness takes a lot of work, but the good news is that the longer you practice, the easier it gets and the more joyful your life becomes.

At first, your thoughts will be in chaos, and everything will seem out of control. Your situation will feel helpless, but the more you focus on being fully where you are, the easier it will be to find peace of mind in the moment.

Mindfulness is best practiced throughout your day. It’s not just for when you sit down and meditate. Focus on being mindful of your thoughts when you’re doing everyday tasks and it will be easier to remain mindful when things get tough.

2.

There will always be distractions.
When you’re on your journey to becoming more mindful, it seems as if the universe starts throwing stuff at you just to give you challenges.

The distractions could be problems in your life, drama in your relationships, or old negative beliefs popping up from your past.

These are great opportunities to practice present moment awareness. They will help you become stronger, better, and more in tune with yourself. The problems and challenges we face are teachers in disguise.

They are there to help you grow and to realize who you truly are.

3.

Progress doesn’t always come quickly.
Progress may seem excruciatingly slow. There will be times when you attach to things and situations that you want, which will make it difficult to be fully in the present moment. It’s impossible to be mindful when you’re dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future.

We all do those things sometimes. I’ve experienced it countless times in my own life. The more I want something, the more I fixate on not having it and wanting to get it.

Once I release the attachment and focus on being grateful for what I have in the moment, my life seems to shift, and progress seems to happen naturally.

4.

You may want to give up.
Like with any worthwhile journey, you will feel like giving up and throwing in the towel multiple times.

But it is during the times when you feel most frustrated that you are often on the verge of a breakthrough.

Our lives are very similar to the seasons. We go through cold, dark winters, and joyful, expanding summers. It all comes and goes. It’s the ebb and flow of life.

When you realize that the challenging times are there to help you grow, you will automatically feel more peaceful and relaxed.

5.

Your goals may challenge your mindfulness.
Having goals is fantastic, essential even, but when you become overly attached to them, something bad happens, just like we talked about above.

You know that you’re too attached to something when you start feeling frustrated, angry, and negative.

Attachment muddles our clarity. You’re likely pursuing your goals because you believe they will make you happy. Remember that when you start letting your goals pull you into a stressful state of mind. If you focus on the good things around you, you’ll feel that happiness that you think you need to chase.

This will make you much happier in the long term, and, of course, right now.

6.

You might forget that the journey is the destination.
Most people miss the fact that the reward is in the journey. Have you ever noticed that when you reach a goal, it’s not as exciting as you thought it would be?

Sure, it feels great to hit a milestone, but if you do not replace that goal with another one, you will soon find yourself feeling unfulfilled.

That’s because we are goal-seeking mechanisms. Humans need goals so they can have a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

It is in the journey that we learn, grow, and become better. When you’re practicing mindfulness, remember that there is nowhere to arrive at. If you focus on what is going on right now, the rest take care of itself.

7.

Sometimes you’ll want to be anywhere but in the now.
Even the most enlightened masters on earth have to deal with difficult situations and chaotic thoughts. The difference is they have learned to accept the moment for what it is.

When you do this, you become the guardian of your inner space, which is the only way to feel good inside and find peace of mind right now.

Full Article:


7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them


 BY AMANDA LITVINOVBRENDA ÁLVAREZCINDY LONG, AND TIM WALKER


Junttila, Henri. “7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them.” Tiny Buddha, 4 Nov. 2020, tinybuddha.com/blog/7-obstacles-to-mindfulness-and-how-to-overcome-them/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because everyone has their obstacles to overcome. Whether they are relatable or personal, it is important to be able to maintain a practice, no matter what issues surface. 

Mindfulness During the Coronavirus

An article by Haley Yamada from Good Morning America

The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, continues to disrupt life as we know it.

As the World Health Organization officially declared the virus a "pandemic," cities across the country are implementing preventative measures, like “social distancing,” to try to mitigate the number of cases.

To combat the scary news and anxiety around it, meditation and mindfulness can be your best friends.

"Meditation and mindfulness can be valuable allies in times like this...Of course, they don’t keep you free from disease. But they can help you be free-er from panic, more able to protect yourself, and more in touch with your own inner wisdom and resilience."

- Dr. Jay Michaelson -
​Editor
​Ten Percent Happier

ABC News' Dan Harris sat down with Michaelson and Dr. Luana Marques, a clinical psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, for a special edition of his podcast, "Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris," to discuss mindfulness and how it can help you stay grounded, practice healthy habits and protect your loved ones.

Working with Anxiety

An unprecedented situation of a novel coronavirus is the perfect storm for anxiety, said Dr. Jay Michaelson. The space between what is known about the virus and what is yet to be discovered often leaves the general population worried and fearful.


Mindfulness can help you recognize those moments when you begin to feel overwhelmed.

“So, I think the first thing we all need to remember is anxiety is appropriate right now,” said Dr. Luana Marques on the podcast. “So the idea that anxiety has an inverse relationship with performance...Up to a point, the more anxious you get, the more performance you have. There is a point, a tilting point, though, that too much anxiety affects anything that we're doing. So we can't think critically. We get stuck. We start to get more anxious.”

By understanding that you’re experiencing fear, you can recognize the situation for what it is and where you're adding your own personal anxieties.

“I recommend [for those facing extra anxiety], run outside. Or [be careful at] the gym, but any kind of exercise. I mean, a brisk walk. It's something that any of us can do,” said Dr. Marques. “Be creative. Do jumping jacks at home.… Exercise brings down anxiety and does it fast.”

Building Healthy Habits

Things doctors have been telling us for ages, like “wash your hands for more than 20 seconds” or “don’t touch your face,” have become especially prudent during the coronavirus outbreak -- and we realize just how bad we are at consistently practicing those healthy habits.

Mindfulness helps you take those steps toward recognizing those impulsive face touches and too-short hand washes, said Dr. Jay Michaelson.


Also, as Dr. Michaelson suggests, you can turn those, sometimes seemingly boring, habits into extra time for yourself.

Those 20 seconds of hand washing can turn into a moment of meditation and those face-touching urges can serve as a reminder to be with a desire, rather than just indulge it, said Dr. Michaelson.

Also, remember the importance of a good night’s sleep.

“Good sleep ... hygiene, turning off the phones, turning off the news at a reasonable time, and decreasing [things like] caffeine, chocolate, anything that activates you,” said Dr. Marques. “If you can't sleep, get out of bed, because sitting there and worrying guarantees you won't sleep.”

Building these mindful habits will ultimately aid your immune system and improve your chances of being healthy, said Dr. Marques.

Growing Wisdom

“The kind of meditation that we're focused on, mindfulness meditation, I like to think of it as a kind of a two-step process,” explained Dr. Michaelson. “The first is to, kind of, calm down and center the mind enough to do the second step, which is to just see what's going on and to just co-exist with what's going on.”

Using mindfulness will help you release generalized anxiety that is out of your individual control -- and focus on being present and what you can do to help, without slipping into denial, said Dr. Jay Michaelson.


“We [don’t want to be] binging on terrifying articles until 3:30 in the morning, but we do want to be aware of the severity of this issue and our moral responsibility to those who are less resilient and who are more vulnerable,” said Dr. Michaelson. “[Denial is a] very tempting refuge because this is terrifying and is hurting everyone ... so denial is a really comfortable place to hang out.”

Practicing mindfulness lets you be aware of your anxiety and helps to strike the balance between informing yourself, but also recognizing the effort needed to take care of your own personal mental state.

Harris, Dr. Michaelson and Dr. Luana discussed the details of setting up a non-judgmental moment of awareness, mindful breathing, and how to feel that needed sense of calm.

All coronavirus content on “Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris” is free for those interested in following along and hearing more about the specifics of mindfulness practices.

By strengthening your mind, you will be able make smarter decisions, build healthier habits and ultimately, take better care of those you love, concludes Dr. Michaelson.

Full Article:


Mindfulness during the coronavirus: Harvard professor's tips to help lower anxiety


 BY Haley Yamada


Yamada, Haley. “Mindfulness during the Coronavirus: Harvard Professor's Tips to Help Lower Anxiety.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 2020, abcnews.go.com/GMA/Wellness/mindfulness-coronavirus-harvard-professors-tips-lower-anxiety/story?id=69555324&cid=social_fb_abcn&fbclid=IwAR0EuZjyBT84dzYQYuFGHgcw7GQfLeOMADLjTMaFW4ZjYjbPAiu30Wa98sY.

Director of Strategic Communications

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

During this time, it seems we’re all looking for coping mechanisms to keep our anxiety at bay and mental health in check. This article spoke to me because I’m personally relying on meditation to help me stay regulated and grounded.

Integrating our own Wisdom

A blog post from Rachel’s Corner by Rachel Wixey

Each week, we curate content relative to mindfulness in classrooms. We set out to offer material from different perspectives that reflect ideas, thoughts, practices, social issues and more that are relevant to youth, adults working with youth, and of course, mindfulness is the underpinning.

“Today feels different.”

Today feels different. Just in the past week, the world has become different. I have heard many words to describe how people are feeling – uncertain, concerned, annoyed, hopeful, and that these times are crazy, and strange. My best friend checked in this morning and her word was – wild. Indeed, it is all of the above.

The past few mornings I have had to commit my entire meditation practice to clearing the way for my own internal wisdom to rise up. While this is part of the reason I practice each day, it now feels like the stakes are much higher when I set this intention. We have a barrage of information coming in, and coming in quickly. The updates, restrictions, guidance, life-changes and consequences, personally and collectively are a lot to absorb. What we are trying to intellectually take on is so much at once, and it’s hitting our nervous system faster than we can actually process and adeptly integrate. The information given to us is important, and we encourage everyone to follow the guidelines of course. Yet, there is more available to us; and this is what I mean by “clearing the way”.

“It is healing to honor our fear (concern, uncertainty, etc), examine how we relate to it, and release it even for a moment.”

We are able to regulate our nervous system and provide it some direct relief. It is healing to honor our fear (concern, uncertainty, etc), examine how we relate to it, and release it even for a moment. As we do, we open to the presence of what lies beneath the chaos. Through this, aspects of our wholeness are revealed to us and begin to truly nourish our well-being. What we find beneath all the disorder is our inherent wellness; that which beats our heart, pumps our blood, and makes us all the same. This is secure in each one of us – by whatever name you may call it. When we access this, our internal wisdom has room to rise, guiding us from our strength, integrity and our dignity during our most trying times.

The presence of love is within us, and around us, at all times. As we integrate our own internal wisdom to this whole experience, we open to the presence of our personal guidance, and deeper understanding that we may otherwise have missed altogether. May our practice help build our capacity to offer this love to others, and invite others to do the same. 

With love,

Rachel

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