The holiday season can be a time of Hallmark movies, beautifully decorated store fronts, and magic, but it can also be a tough time for many of us. Not only are the winters long and cold, but sticky family dynamics that often surround the holiday months can make this season of magic feel like a trick.
At Charlie Health, we often see how the holiday months can be a hard time to manage mental health. Many people feel depressed and lonely during busy holiday dinners. Others feel pangs of anxiety as distant family members are forced into the same room. However, incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives can help manage the chaotic lights, food, and family that surround us. Here are five ways to incorporate mindfulness into the holiday season:
When your heart is racing, head is spinning, it may be difficult to catch your breath. These overwhelming body feelings are a physiological response from our sympathetic nervous system, where our body puts us into fight or flight mode asa response to anxiety. One way to combat these uncomfortable sensations is togo straight to the source. By focussing on the breath, we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system to bring our bodies back to equilibrium. Some simple breath exercises that can be done anywhere are:
• 4 Count Breath- Breath IN for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breath OUT for 4 seconds, and hold for 2. Continue to repeat this cycle for several rounds.
• Alternate Nostril Breathing- using your thumb on the outside of one nostril and pinky on the other, gently press one nostril to close it off. Breath IN through the open one for a few seconds, hold at the top. Then, open the other nostril and breathe out. Repeat this process, alternating nostrils, and focus on visualizing the breath moving from one side of the body to the other.
2. Body Scanning
This is a wonderful technique to do lying in bed after a busy day. While taking deep breaths, start by focussing your attention at the top of your head. Notice any sensations, aches, pains, or comfort you feel. Slowly move down your body, noticing these sensations from your face, neck, chest, arms, torso, legs, and feet. By focussing on each body space, this can help to quiet our minds, feel more present, and connected to our bodies.
3. Mindful Eating
Food is a cornerstone of American Holiday Culture, and taking the time, space, and intention to enjoy it is essential. When eating a big family dinner, its easy to want to scarf down the delicious meal as quickly as possible. Instead, focus on each bite. Notice the texture of each element of the meal. How does it smell? What precise element is your absolute favorite? Taking the time to slowdown during meals not only helps us from eating to a point of being uncomfortable, but it also helps us enjoy and savor these meals. Who wouldn’t want their food to taste even better?!
4. Five Senses Mediation
In a quiet space away from the holiday chaos, the five senses mediation can help ground ourselves to time and space. This is a wonderful activity to do outside in nature.
• Start with your eyes closed, and notice 5 things you hear. The birds? Cars? Wind?
• Notice 5 things you feel. Sun on your cheeks? Breeze in your hair?
• Notice 5 things you smell. Grass? A wood fire?
• Notice 5 things you taste. Morning Coffee? Breakfast?
• Finally, open your eyes, and notice 5 things you see.
• This is a wonderful way to connect to your body and the natural world around you.
5. Welcoming Emotions
Whether we are trying to actively do mindfulness activities or not, it is important to take note of any intense emotions we are experiencing. Are we feeling a deep sadness? Loneliness? Are our thoughts racing with no end? Are we experiencing flashbacks to trauma, or lost in our heads frequently? It is okay to not feel well during the holidays, and it is essential to take the time and slow down to actually notice that we are struggling. If these feelings are unmanageable and interfere with our daily lives, it might be time to reach out for help. At Charlie Health, we are dedicated to supporting youth and families in accessing the mental health care they deserve.
Here is one of our favorite poems by Rumi that is so applicable to the holiday season:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Charlie Health Intensive Outpatient Therapy
Charlie Health’s mission is dedicated to solving the mental health crisis in teens and young adults. We offer fully virtual intensive outpatient therapy for those who need more than one time per week therapy. Our curated groups, individual therapy, family therapy, and psychiatric services are designed to treat the entire client and promote lasting healing. Charlie Health’s innovative virtual model is the first of its kind, providing accessible, high quality care as a licensed mental health and substance use hospital. We can reach teens and young adults across the entire state, and will never have a waitlist.
Charlie Health and our team of dedicated, licensed professionals are here to listen and to help. Reaching out for help is tough, but a critical step towards healing. Call us any time and our team can help build you a custom treatment program, or help link you to the appropriate resources.