3 Mindfulness Techniques to Reduce Holiday Stress
The holidays… a time of joy, love, good memories, family time and delicious food. As the end of the year approaches, this is a time to look back and reflect on memories made, while also looking forward to plans for the new year. We reminisce on all the good that has happened, the craziness we endured and the excitement for the year to come with big plans to make this next year different.
The reality is, while “good cheer” is what the holiday season is all about, it’s not always what it brings. Instead, we are faced with busy supermarkets, family members that don’t get along, the stress of cooking – cleaning – shopping, the additional financial responsibilities of food and gifts. Extra-long days that are devoted to packing and traveling. The occasional family argument that arises from the stress we are all under of having to produce the perfect holiday experience. Even as the season approaches, some of us begin to tense just thinking about what this season could bring.
What if instead, we could learn to let go of the expectations we create in our minds of a perfect day and instead sit down to enjoy the time spent with loved ones at this time of year, because let’s face it this only comes once a year for many of us.
I grew up in a household where the holidays are super stressful, we worry about everything from what food to prepare, to what gifts to give to yes, even what our attire will be. When I moved to Chicago four years ago, my parents came to visit me for one of the holiday seasons – as a practitioner of mindfulness I vowed to show them a different way during the holidays. I offered to take control of the day and do everything from grocery shopping to preparing and cooking the food. The result – my mom said, “she had never had a holiday that was so peaceful, and it was nice to relax and enjoy instead of being in a constant state of panic”. So, what did I do differently to prevent the overwhelming stress of the holidays? Below, I share a few techniques that I employ around this season to cultivate a state of calm and make the best of a busy time of year.
3 Mindfulness Techniques to Reduce Holiday Stress
The first step to practicing mindfulness during the holiday season is awareness. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Awareness requires dedication and practice. What is awareness? Awareness is a mindfulness-based technique that basically means to practice becoming good at living in the moment, noticing when something makes you anxious, aggravated, happy, sad, etc. Noticing moment by moment how you feel, triggers that are happening in your body and thoughts around the situation. Awareness isn’t just about capturing the things that make you feel negative, but also the positive.
- How do you feel? Are you angry – ask yourself why. Are you sad – ask yourself why. Are you feeling anxious – ask yourself why. Are you excited – ask yourself why.
- Identify your triggers
- Is your heart pounding? – what is triggering this response?
- Palms sweaty? – what is triggering this response?
Often you will find that an internal thought about a specific situation is intensifying the feeling, emotion or triggered response within your body causing your system to become more angry – more sad – more anxious – happier, which then causes a habitual dive for the worse or for the better. This response is happening automatically because over the years your mind and body has been trained to respond this way, therefore without even knowing you are deep in an emotional tornado of swirling thoughts that are keeping you upset. Before you know it, you want to cancel the holidays all together, dive back into bed, cover up your head and forget the world exists.
Sound familiar? It was for me too. I spent a lot of time training my mind and body to become aware of how I was feeling or how I was being triggered and then asking why am I feeling this way. Be honest with yourself in order to begin a new path, a path that is less stressful and more rewarding. Once you become aware, you can begin practicing techniques which negate the automatic negative response and instead find a more peaceful path.
The ultimate way to reduce stress during the holidays is to breathe. It’s just that simple, or is it? Breathing sounds easy enough, <insert but here>, many of us go through life on a daily basis keeping ourselves in a stressed-out state simply by the way we breathe. Yes, that’s right. You can keep yourself in a “fight or flight” response just by breathing. Shallow breathing also known as chest breathing keeps the body in a state of panic with adrenaline and cortisol pumping through your system telling the body it needs to stand and defend against a threat or run to protect itself.
Learning to breathe the “right” way will help to negate the body’s fight or flight response system and calm the central nervous system. Training the body to calm while in a stressful state results in better decision making, lessened feelings of anxiety and reduced physical tension.
Breath Awareness Exercise:
- Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen.
- Inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose.
- Which hand rises as you inhale?
- Which hand falls as you exhale?
If the hand on your chest is rising and falling – this is referred to as shallow breathing and is not helping your central nervous system relax.
If the hand on your abdomen is rising and falling – this is referred to as diaphragmatic breathing and commands a quick response of the central nervous system to relax and calm putting you into a parasympathetic state which conserves energy and slows heart rate.
The first step to conscious breathing is to inhale and exhale through the nose, bringing the air deep into your abdomen allowing your lungs to fully fill with oxygen as you inhale and fully release all the air with each exhale. Repeat ten to fifteen times and enjoy the benefits of being calm no matter what your external factors might be.
Advanced Exercise: Align your inhale with your exhale, meaning inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four. If counting to four isn’t challenging enough, then use a count of five. Repeat ten to fifteen times and enjoy the results.
This can be used anywhere at any time without anyone noticing. Conscious breathing is an excellent way to combat holiday stress no matter where you are or what you are dealing with in that moment.
Thoughts run through our mind, thousands of them in any given day. Some conscious and some subconscious. Thoughts tend to be the culprit of a lot of stress, and not just around the holidays.
Have you ever paid attention to what your internal thoughts are saying, really saying? For example, it’s three days before Thanksgiving and you have all the grocery shopping to do, your house needs to be cleaned and the dog must be bathed. Your partner is out of town until Thanksgiving eve and you are left to do all of this on your own. What’s the first thought that comes to mind?
For many of us: “I’m never going to get this done” or “I have so much work to do, ugh” – sound familiar?
You likely responded to my question above with a negative response without even thinking about it. This type of thoughts often result in negative feelings and behavioral patterns. This creates repeating episodes which predictably leads to feeling overwhelmed. Identify the negative though, then switch it to a positive thought, such as “I will tackle the grocery list first, then bathe the dog and turn on my favorite tunes to clean the house. I can do this!”
Reframing thoughts takes time and practice and gets easier the more it’s done. Begin to take notice of your thought patterns, when you find that they are negative, in that moment switch them for the exact opposite, positive statement. Talking positively to yourself has a big impact to your mental state, especially when handling stress at the holidays.
When I would feel myself become overwhelmed by my to-do list for the holidays with my parents, I became diligent about listening to the internal conversation and staying positive – reminding myself how happy I was to be in the position to have my parents in town, to cook for them and to be an upbeat host. Quickly the to-do list turned from seeming like it would never end to being fun and exciting. Positive self-talk can go a long way in calming internal dialogue and reducing stress and anxiety.
This holiday season, plan to combat stress differently, utilize mindfulness techniques to become aware of the stress and its triggers. Combat stress in the moment with focused breathing and by reframing your thoughts to move from an overwhelmed state to a positive more relaxed state. Happy Holidays make this year’s season one to remember!
Guest Posts written by Briana Bragg.
Briana Bragg is a wellness industry leader specializing in meditation and mindfulness. She is the founder of Vacation of the Mind, a guided meditation company designed to be practical and welcoming. Her expertise has led to being a sought after speaker, author, and coach. Her approach inspires people to assess their lifestyle and incorporate meditation to live a healthy and meaningful life. Briana’s dynamic energy and passion are fueled by her devotion to the wellbeing of others.
Briana founded Business Bragger, a digital marketing company with a concentration in social media, while pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Marketing at Florida Atlantic University. Her digital savvy quickly attracted clients from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Within three years, she was managing over 100 accounts.
However, the rigorous schedule and demands of the industry led to a near mental and physical burnout. Stress, anxiety, and unrest became a part of her life. In an effort to combat the onset of health concerns, she searched for holistic ways to cope with the industry expectations.
Her journey led to meditation. She began meditating regularly and the practice transformed her life. It has become her integral part of life that brings comfort and calm.
She observed a common trend among entrepreneurs and business professionals. They were dealing with high expectations without a concern for their mental health. She devoted herself to developing a meditation practice that was approachable and relatable. Vacation of the Mind was created to offer meditation techniques and trainings to embrace a healthy mind, body, and lifestyle.
With a mission to touch one million lives or more through positive lifestyle changes, Briana has expanded from individual practice to guided group meditation. Her Journey into Tranquility certified meditation program has created a team of instructors who are dedicated to spreading the positive message of meditation. The team of instructors are part of the Vacation of the Mind team, offering corporate wellness programs, special events, and individual sessions.
Briana works in person and virtually as a Meditation and Mindfulness Instructor, guiding individual and corporate group clients through meditations and visualizations specially designed to address their unique challenges, resolve conflict, and increase their bandwidth. Utilizing her marketing background and a proprietary software system, Briana provides her clients with individualized reporting and data analytics on each meditation program. These resources enable executives and industry leaders to implement her techniques into their own training, marketing, and business plans—a real and tangible competitive differentiator.
Vacation of the Mind Meditation Program
Based on feedback from her clients and solid scientific research on the brain-body connection, Briana created a unique meditation program that relieves stress, refocuses the mind, and takes every practitioner on a peaceful journey. The Vacation of the Mind program allows people of all meditation skill levels to escape the chaos of daily activity and engage comfortably and effectively with meditation.
Vacation of the Mind made Briana a recognized leader in the meditation movement, but she hasn’t stopped there. Handing someone tools, no matter how excellent those tools may be, and sending them off does not guarantee successful implementation. Briana develops trainings, certifications, workshops, resources, builds a community and partnerships, provides motivation, and helps her clients achieve results.
Journey into Tranquility Certification
As practitioners recognized the effectiveness of the Vacation of the Mind meditation program, demand exploded and quickly outstripped one woman’s ability to supply. With its tried-and-true methodology and systemic approach, Vacation of the Mind is both scalable and teachable. Briana designed a program to train other talented instructors. The resulting Journey into Tranquility certification class is approved by the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers, The Canadian Association for Integrative Nutrition, and A.A.P.T.E as a CEU approved meditation course. The Journey into Tranquility certification is an online course is geared towards those who want to teach meditation.
Community and Partnerships
With an extensive online and social media presence, the Vacation of the Mind community of instructors and practitioners are close-knit with a global reach. Briana created and launched the successful Vacation of the Mind website, which provides online resources for meditation programs, education and support, and the first virtual weekly live-guided meditation session in the industry!
Could your company benefit from increased productivity, increased efficiency, increased job satisfaction, and decreased conflict? These are the incredible, reliable results of introducing mindfulness and meditation into the workplace. Vacation of the Mind adds this important meditation component to your corporate wellness program. Briana personally works with each company to align them with the instructor who can meet their needs and build out the custom-designed meditations for their teams to focus on the goals of the company and team.
Briana fosters relationships and partners with many organizations across the country to promote the benefits of meditation to an even broader demographic. There are many opportunities to connect with the Vacation of the Mind community, including extensive speaking tours, presentations, and events. We are actively conducting events and are always interested in exploring new partnerships.
If you’re interested in booking Briana for individual meditative coaching, corporate group meditation, or pursuing certification, contact her today at Briana@Vacationofthemind.com. You can also visit www.VacationoftheMind.com for more information and resources.
Degrees and Certifications:
ISMA – Stress, Relaxation and Meditation Instructor Certification
AAAI – Stress, Relaxation and Meditation Instructor Certification
NCCPT – Journey into Tranquility Meditation Instructor Certification
Yale – The Science of Wellbeing certified
Achieve Fitness University Certified
Achieve University Education Leadership Member
BS – Business Management Degree – Florida Atlantic University
BS – Marketing Degree – Florida Atlantic University
“As one of the top education providers for health professionals in the United States, I strongly recommend the Journey into Tranquility master education program provided by industry leader Briana Bragg!”
– Robert Raymond, CEO, Achieve Health Systems
“As a certified yoga instructor, certified personal trainer, and practiced meditator, this is the first clearly laid out, palatable program I’ve seen that allows people to immediately begin implementing the meditation skills they learned while teaching others effective modalities and simultaneously offering the support needed to grow and expand their business.”
I had the opportunity to attend a meditation session offered by Briana at my place of work. I didn’t know what to expect and honestly, if it would even work for me. All I can say is wow…what an experience! The session had ended and I was still in the inner peace Briana had guided me to. Briana is amazing! My meditation experience with her is one I will never forget.
Tracey Johnson, National Futures Association
“It has been a pleasure advising Briana on her business plan to reach and help many people across the world. I highly recommend the Journey into Tranquility master education program as an effective step-by-step course for meditation.”
– Michael Libercci, Head Business Coach, Achieve Health Systems
“As a certified health coach who focuses on holistic living, Journey Into Tranquility was exactly what I needed to enhance my wellness practice and my own mindfulness (all entrepreneurs need some help with that)! Being certified to teach meditation is powerful, as I now have the skills to truly take my clients’ health to the next level. I’m also going to be able to add this into programs and classes, which is going to increase my income— grateful for that! Thank you, Briana, for sharing your knowledge and experience with me.”
– Laurisa Truemper, Certified Holistic Health Counselor, CEO, Empowered by Laurisa
“The methodologies of this program absolutely work! I have been working with Briana to pass a series of exams, in addition to attending the weekly calls. The modalities of breathing and creative visualization techniques helped me relax during studying and I saw myself pass the test. I was able to walk in the classroom setting with ease, calmly take the test after implementing the breathing techniques taught in this program, and effortlessly recall the answers to a test I had failed prior to practicing the Journey into Tranquility methodology. I am excited to be an Ambassador for this program, as well as host my own certification courses.”
– Roger Romance, Certified Personal Trainer
“My meditation sessions with Briana are incredibly effective and have left me with a sense of calmness and feeling of inner peace. Each time, I have felt transported in our ‘journeys’ and achieved a balanced state with her breathing and visualization techniques. I wholeheartedly recommend her and this program to anyone looking for a transformative, positive, approachable experience. I’m excited to become certified in this modality, which will advance my Pilates career in and out of the studio.”
– Jessica Rosas, Certified Pilates Instructor
“I have found Vacation of the Mind to be a great tool to reach new levels of relaxation and calm. Briana is a skilled leader and she makes the experience feel very comfortable and personal. She is clear and easy to follow, and it feels like she is connecting with you on a deep level. I am looking forward to the opportunity to take this course, in order to be able to help my patients learn the Journey into Tranquility meditation style.”
–Tracy Doering, ED.S., Licensed Mental Health Counselor
“Briana is a delight! Her presentation at our conference was insightful, relevant and very entertaining. She had the audience in the palm of her hand from beginning to end!” – Vanessa Raymond, CEO Achieve Academy & Victory Factor