We are in full holiday swing. Along with the festivities come parties, good food, presents, laughter, and twinkling lights. We gather with family and friends to celebrate our relationships and remember another year together.
We also may find ourselves becoming increasingly tense and exhausted with all of the hustle and bustle. Our levels of stress tend to increase as we are inundated with long shopping lines, traffic jams, and relationship expectations. One’s self-care may end up last on the prioritized list of things to get done. Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of irritability, frustration, and even aggression. One may even feel “boxed in” or “cornered.”
These feelings can be exacerbated by what we tell ourselves:
“Why am I so tense?”
“I am supposed to be able to handle all of this stress.”
“If I do not get the right gift, what will they think?”
“I should be enjoying this party, but I feel sad.”
“When you start to feel a little sad, anxious or irritable, it’s not the mood that does the damage but how you react to it. The effort of trying to free yourself from a bad mood or bout of unhappiness – of working out why you’re unhappy and what you can do about it – often makes things worse. It’s like being trapped in quicksand – the more you struggle to be free, the deeper you sink.” (Williams & Penman, 2011)
As our minds rush with the frantic holiday pace, we can feel overwhelmed. If we beat up ourselves with self-critical thoughts, we only make ourselves feel worse. However, when we take a moment to practice compassionate self-awareness, we can create space to breathe. One can add mindfulness into life easily without taking much extra time. An abundance of formal mindfulness exercises are on the Internet. One can also practice randomly throughout the day. As we take a moment to pause, we can ask ourselves, “What am I saying in my mind right now? How can I be kind to myself in this moment?”
Here is an informal mindfulness practice that can help: S.T.O.P. is a practice we can use anytime we find ourselves “stopped” in a long line, traffic jam, or red light. Each time we stop, take a moment to go through the four letters, breathe, pause, and check in with our thoughts. When we have checked in and feel more centered in the moment, we can proceed. This practice is a beautiful way to give ourselves permission for self-care several times a day.
S – Stop or pause.
T – Take a deep breath and relax.
O – Observe in the present moment: What sounds do I notice? Where is my breath? How does my body feel? What am I saying in my mind? What is one way I can respond to myself with compassion in this moment?
P – Proceed – Where was my attention before S.T.O.P.? Did it match my intention? Do I want to continue or attend to something else? (Zylowska, 2012)
At Fuller Life Family Therapy, we desire to work together to create more peace in your life. We want to walk along side you as you explore ways to be more compassionate in your relationships and with yourself. Please share this article with anyone who you think might benefit from a little more peace.