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10 Ways to Stay Mindful this Holiday Season

mother and child at holidays

Are you more in your mind or in your body? Are you spending most of these days in conscious thought? Or are you going through your routine, your body going through the same motions you went through yesterday and the day before that... just getting through the day until you can collapse into bed?

Somehow during this time, every errand, everything required to execute expected traditions jump ahead in line, cutting in front of all conscious thought. We whip our brains into auto pilot with checklists and before we know it, we are racing through our days with very little mindfulness or awareness.

How do we become present in mind AND body and get back to what this holiday time is all about in the first place?

10 ways to destress your holiday... and stay mindful:

1. Remind yourself what it means to you

Take a moment and reconnect with why you're celebrating this time in the first place. Is it Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, tales of St. Nick, family time or just the fantastic parties and vacation? What is it about this time of year that means something to you? Not what it's supposed to mean or even what it used to mean, but what really resonates with you now? Be honest with yourself, and make sure that you are doing all that you can do to honor the meaning of the holiday.

2. Challenge the traditions with conscious thought

Why do you always have a million people over every night? Why do you always go to that aunt's house on the day you really want to stay home? Is it time to establish your own traditions with new family or friends? Once you have determined what is really important to you, designate special time for each tradition. If tree trimming with your children is special, plan for it and make sure it happens. Allow adequate time for everyone to be together and be conscious of the reason for the celebration.

3. Don't stop taking care of yourself

Do NOT let your diet, fitness and over all well-being go out the window because you have too much to do! You need this now more than ever. If going to the gym means you won't get those holiday cards finished in time... then so be it. Your suffering physiology will cost you a lot more than your uncle in Vermont who receives his card a day or two late. Don't deprive yourself of good nutritious food and enough sleep. You will be able to get more done. Remember, strong body = strong mind.

4. No more obligation gifts

Don't let gift giving stress you out. What are the rules? What are the appropriate gifts and to whom? Here's one option to try: if you aren't sure whether you need to give a gift or not, take that as a NOT. If you need to give something but have NO IDEA what to give, give to a charity in someone's name. If you are giving random gift cards out of obligation, give a holiday card with a letter from you, written from the heart, instead. You are not obligated to give anyone a gift, even if they give a gift to you. So rethink those periphery gifts, and break the habit!

5. Declare "no gifts" or put a cap on spending

One option is to impose a spending limit on all gifts and the rest goes to a charity. The rewards of giving gifts to your favorite charity are endless. It adds a level of consciousness to gift giving that will fill you with gratitude.

6. Ask for help

Designate, designate, designate. Try pot luck dinners, bring your own vegetable, or have a cookie trade. There are so many ways to lessen your workload!

Here's a fun idea: ask each guest to bring a dish that represents a holiday tradition in their family. You'll have a fantastic night filled with colorful (and deliciious) stories of hysterical and poetic traditions. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Again, challenge your auto pilot driven traditions.

7. Send E-Cards

There is no substitute for getting a card in the mail. It's becoming a lost art! But the reality is that the cost of cards, stamps and time all add up. Not to mention the paper waste. So, if time is an issue, and you're looking for a greener option, E-Cards are perfectly acceptable. Just take the time to personalize each with a greeting. And again, don't send to periphery acquaintances.

8. Make a list... or throw yours out!

Are you a list maker? If so, then consider throwing yours out. Not your grocery list or your "gift idea" list but your to-do lists and never ending errand lists. If it doesn't come to you consciously to do, and you don't get it done, then it wasn't that important in the first place! Endless lists are stressful. Ridding yourself of them will help to break you out of the auto pilot habits. It will require you to be CONSCIOUS!

9. Release what doesn't get done

I once lost half of a Christmas Eve because I hadn't gotten everything I wanted done for Christmas Day. I locked myself into a back room and worked hurriedly as my family enjoyed food, laughter and song without me. I thought what I was doing was necessary. I thought it was important, until the next day when it all seemed so anticlimactic. Be conscious of your priorities and release the little things that didn't get done or go the way you had invisioned. Be open to new ways, and tune in to what is really important. Release the rest. Make a conscious decision that the little things just don't matter.

10. Give the greatest gift of all

Command your mind to pay attention. Consciously allow yourself to soak in the moments and enjoy the holiday. Through all the events, the hustle and the traditions, be aware that the best gift you can give to others and yourself is YOUR PRESENCE. Slow down, be conscious and be present. That is the greatest gift you can give.