Meditation Tips That Help You Handle Stress Over the Holidays
The holidays are great and all, but there's no denying that this time of year can also be stress-a-palooza for many people. Whether it be because of financial strain, travel delays, or sucking up the annual encounter with erratic Uncle Joe who Won't. Stop. Talking. about the election, there's enough going on to make anyone feel like they're about to go AWOL. (Oh, and speaking of Uncle Joe, here's how to navigate political #realtalk during the holidays.)
That's where meditation comes in. It's one of the hottest workout trends of the year (seriously, Pinterest revealed that mental fitness and meditation workouts were searched 45 percent more often on the platform in 2016). And for good reason: It works. Science shows that combining meditation with exercise can decrease depression, and meditation alone can reduce stress, relieve emotional pain, and even make you more compassionate. (It also helps to let out a few NSFW words-like in this video.) In other words, it's exactly what you need before heading home for the holidays.
That's why Simple Habit, a "prescriptive" meditation app that releases daily 5- to 20-minute guided meditations (which you can either listen to on their website or through the phone app), developed a 10-minute guided meditation that's geared specifically toward dealing with all the holiday stress flyin' at you. But before you unplug for those few minutes-which you can turn to as often as you need, BTW-memorize these stress-relieving tips from Kelly Boys, Simple Habit's meditation teacher. That way you'll have them tucked away if you find yourself in a less-than-pleasant situation.
Take a Deep Breath
If there's one thing to focus on in meditation, it's your breath. And that's exactly what's going to get you through those pull-your-hair-out moments with your mother-in-law and insane travel delays at the airport. "If you're feeling overwhelmed by challenging interactions with family members, pause and take one mindful breath," says Boys. "Close your eyes, follow your inhalation all the way in, and slowly exhale." Why? She says it takes you out of the situation-and all the stress that comes along with it-and back into a moment where you can respond rather than react, because the latter tends to be fueled by emotion (and LBH: sometimes that emotion isn't so pretty).
Remember Your Similarities
When you're feeling annoyed by the differences you have with friends or family, or you're feeling hurt by a parent or sibling, Boys suggests this quick practice: Say, "This person (say their name) has wants and needs, just like me" or, "This person wants to be loved, just like me" or even "This person sometimes feels sad, just like me." Yes, it may sound cheesy and like the last thing you want to do in that moment, but Boys swears it will help. "It can remind you that we're all in this together, and we're all doing the best we know how," she says. "It helps dismantle blame and encourages compassionate responses."
This goes hand-in-hand with the "remember your similarities" point, but Boys says that it's important to understand that being compassionate does not always mean being passive. So no, you do not have to forfeit your own passions and beliefs just to keep the peace...but you don't need to have an all-out brawl either. "Sometimes the best thing to do is stand up and leave the room when it gets to be too much," says Boys. And if you can't walk away-like when you feel the airline ticket agent isn't exactly being helpful with rebooking your flight? Breathe. After all, it's doubtful they want to make your holiday travel plans miserable on what's likely their busiest work day of the year.
Pause to Re-center
Boys suggests trying this practice if you're feeling lonely, which can happen when you're frantically trying to cross items off your to-do list, or even when you're surrounded by family and friends. "Go into the bathroom, put your cell phone down, put your hand on your heart, and whisper to yourself, 'Come home, sweetheart. You're welcome here,'" she says. Yeah, it sounds pretty weird, but as Boys says, who the eff cares? "It's way better than your inner critic voice coming out because she makes you feel bad for how you're feeling," she explains. Taking that moment typically allows you the pause you need to quell any feelings of being overwhelmed and come back to your badass, taking-care-of-business self.
If holiday stress, specifically, isn't exactly what's weighing on you, think about diving a little deeper with Simple Habit's other guided meditations that all deal with family stress, including working through family conflict, trying to gain new perspective, and preparing for a day full of travel.