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Practicing Mindful Self-Care During the Holiday Season

Given that this time of year can bring both joy and difficult moments, it seemed fitting to send out some reminders for mindful self-care. I’ve also included some links to previous posts that may be useful. If the holiday season has previously been stressful for you, these suggestions may help you to shift your perspective and bring about a more peaceful experience of the holidays.

  1. Remember to breathe. When we get stressed, we tend to hold the breath. Try making a point to bring awareness to the breath several times during the day. Try pairing this practice with another activity to help you remember to do it, such as before you get out of bed, before you shower, before you eat, when you sit at your desk, etc. If you notice that you’re holding your breath, see if you can soften and take a few deep breaths.
  2. During moments of stress or increased anxiety, try practicing 4-6 Breath. Breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 6. When we elongate the exhale, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to bring our body, heart and mind back to a state of balance.
  3. Focus on eating well to nourish your body and enliven your energy. Choose healthy foods. Before you attend a holiday gathering, consider deciding beforehand what your intentions are regarding food and drink, and make a commitment to stick to your intentions. Consider forgoing sugar and alcohol in an attempt to decrease stress and maintain a more stable mindset and mood. If you’re not ready to skip the sugar and alcohol, consider limiting your  intake and deciding before you arrive what your limits will be.
  4. Increase the frequency and duration of your meditation practice. The tendency during stressful times is to skip the habits and practices that keep us feeling well, when what is called for is deepening our commitment to stick with them and increasing our practice time. Meditation can support us in entering states of deep relaxation, and this allows our body’s healing mechanism to activate and support healing for the body, heart and mind.
  5. Try to adopt a positive mindset when interacting with people with mindsets or perspectives that differ from your own. See if you can approach listening to their perspective with an attitude of curiosity, interest and compassion rather than attempting to change their point of view.
  6. Practice mindfulness of feelings to manage difficult emotions.
  7. Practice mindfulness to manage difficult thoughts, and try to keep things in perspective.
  8. Rest. Remember to schedule periods of rest in your busy schedule.
  9. Practice joy. Especially if the holiday season tends to bring about a state of stress and/or grief. Joy isn’t something that we have or don’t have, it’s something that we can cultivate, and although it feels counterintuitive, it’s most important to cultivate joy during times of stress or grief to help us maintain a sense of balance of body, heart and mind.
  10. Practice self-compassion. We are all human. During periods of stress, we are at increased risk for imperfect action toward our commitments. If you get derailed, try to be kind to yourself, and then get right back on track.

Hopefully these practices will help to give you a greater sense of inner resiliency and joy. Wishing you all a peaceful month.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. – Etty Hillesum


Jen Johnson, MS, MS, MFA, LPC
mindfulness teacher. personal coach. counselor.
photographer. writer.
Jen teaches people how to establish a regular mindfulness practice and integrate it into everyday life. She has been teaching mindfulness for 30+ years.



Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8-week class in Wilmington, NC.  Free orientation Wednesday January 3, 2018  6pm. Class meets Wednesdays 6-8pm January 10 – February 28, 2017 PLUS Saturday February 17 9am – 3pm. MBSR offers a great opportunity for experienced mindfulness mediation students to get support in developing a regular practice and a solid foundational introduction to the practice for new students.  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teaches meditation and gentle yoga to cultivate awareness, reduce stress and create a greater sense of peace and wellbeing. If you’re tired of your racing heart and mind keeping you up at night, struggling with feeling anxious and overwhelmed, feel you’ve lost yourself in the chaos of your life, come to the free orientation to check out the class. You’ll learn how to relax your body, calm your mind chatter, cultivate more peace and joy, and start living your life more mindfully and intentionally.
Registration is limited and required. Cost: $425. For more information click here.   Or email Jen to register.

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