Not going to lie here. The holidays can bring so much joy, but they also can bring on a lot of stress. I feel the extra extra stress working in retail during the holidays but I’m also certain the regular person also feels the stress and the pressure this time of the year. It’s busy, it’s expensive, you’re sometimes put in difficult or awkward situations and for some it can even be frustrating, lonely or sad. A few weeks ago I asked on instastories what you guys do to deal with the feeling of overwhelm. I got a lot of great feedback, which I’ll continue to share over time, but a reader who also happens to be a therapist wrote me back. Super intrigued, I asked her a few questions and even asked if I could email over a few questions for her to answer on the blog! She happily agreed and here we are!
Lindsey is a licensed therapist here in Knoxville and her response to me was she recommends mindfulness to her clients. Well, I won’t even lie, I had to google what “mindfulness” was but after chatting with her a little bit I realized this was something super easy that I could incorporate into my daily routine. Now, I’m not great at incorporating it, but it is at least on my radar! Ha! If you’re like me and not sure what I’m talking about, mindfulness is a form of meditation. It practices bringing your mind to the present moment and helps you become self aware of you, your body and the moment you are currently in. A much needed break from cramming everyone else’s moments into your brain when scrolling instagram. There are guided apps that can help you and I’ve even started using the sleep reading ones when falling asleep at night to calm my often racing mind.
I’m no professional, so I’ll let Lindsey do the talking from here. She’s got some seriously good tips here, I hope you guys love them and find them as useful as I have!
How To Avoid The Holiday Overwhelm
The holidays can be SO overwhelming. How do you suggest beating the overwhelm especially during this busy season and continue to be “you” amidst the chaos?
Be proactive – I find that being PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE helps me to plan ahead for any emotional, financial, or physical stressors that come my way. For example, create a schedule of activities you would like to do/have to do during the holidays and how to fit in your self care activities. If you are trying to be more financially minded, set aside some extra cash each paycheck in anticipation of present buying. Smack dab in the middle of Christmas may not be the time to try to completely redo your routine so just looking ahead at your week and making sure you are not overexerting yourself is ideal.
Set boundaries – Setting boundaries with others or even saying no to an activity that may cause more stress than happiness is a good way to ensure that you are not setting yourself up for anxiety or frustration. For example, holiday office parties are happening and you may set a boundary ahead of time around how many drinks you should have to ensure you continue to exude a sense of professionalism. It’s also important to set boundaries with your family if they can be draining such as letting them know that your job or ex-boyfriend is off limits in conversation. Setting boundaries with those we care about can be hard at first but in the end can feel really empowering.
Maintain self care activities – Maintaining my exercise and self care routine (i.e. eating mindfully, continuing a work/life balance) is another way to lessen the stress of the holidays. I also love to incorporate yoga whenever I can, as it also has many health benefits to help me feel less overwhelmed or stressed and forces me to slow down even if for just a few minutes. The Glowing Body Yoga Studio is really getting into this idea and offering more classes focused on caring not just for your body but also your mind. If you need to remain financially conscious, check out Yoga With Adriene on YouTube. Her videos are free and she is a blast!
Identify potential trigger points – Being prepared for trigger spots (i.e. the aunt that always asks why you aren’t married yet or even just being with your family during a holiday) can allow you to lessen the chances of being overwhelmed or anxious about a certain event.
Be intentional about being authentic – Authenticity, or being “you” or true to yourself, is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, particularly during the busy seasons in our lives. The holidays can sometimes create that feeling of worthlessness or cause us to feel that something is missing in our lives. Being mindful of this creeping up and ensuring that we are choosing our thoughts and behaviors intentionally can help ward off some of these thoughts and feelings from getting out of control.
Limit your social media activity – Do you really need to check your Instagram feed 20 times a day? Nope. Research is showing that this particular app may be the most dangerous of all for adolescents and young women. I am absolutely guilty of burning up time scrolling through beautifully curated newsfeeds that create a sense of self-doubt and worthlessness. Setting limits on your use can empower you to practice being present with yourself and others. Who really needs to see another selfie on Snapchat anyway? ☺
You suggested mindfulness to me when I asked for tips on dealing with feeling overwhelmed. What is mindfulness and what are some of the perks of mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a sense of awareness or present mindedness in each moment. The “father” of Mindfulness, Jon Kabat Zinn, defines it as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. When we can cultivate mindfulness in our lives, it allows for us to choose our thoughts intentionally and in ways that feels authentic to who we are and who we want to be. When we want to change something about ourselves or cultivate a certain attitude, we first have to look to our thoughts and begin modifying those so that they are more positive and true. Choosing our thoughts each day is like choosing what we want to wear- we get to decide what feels right and will be most reflective of who we are. It’s also important to remember that thoughts are not facts, just because we feel or think something does not necessarily mean it is true.
As I mentioned earlier, social media can really cause us to struggle with our thoughts (and add to feeling overwhelmed), pushing us to think, “I need those shoes to look this way” or “if my house just looked like that blogger’s than I would be happy!” These thoughts can be hurtful to us and once we recognize that this thinking is detrimental to our well being, we have a choice to change them and help them to be gentler – this really is the essence of mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness daily can begin to help reshape the landscape of our brains. The more we are making positive and intentional connections in our brains about ourselves we will begin to be more positive in our choices and behaviors. Practicing mindfulness can be done in many different ways; the most common are through meditation, eating, walking, exercising (yoga, in particular), and breathing. Meditation apps are becoming more and more popular and offer some amazing benefits. The Calm App (it offers guided meditations, music, and sleep stories) even won App of the year recently. I also enjoy Headspace, Insight Timer, and 10% happier.
Do you need to practice it everyday to see results?
Research varies on this, but I would say that some form of mindfulness each day would be the most beneficial to your brain health and solidifying positive neural connections.
When do you suggest practicing? Mornings? Evenings? Or whenever you can?
I suggest practicing anytime you have a spare moment. Throughout the day, I close my eyes and picture the ocean waves moving in and out while taking deep belly breaths, with my exhale being a few seconds longer than my inhale. This long exhale engages the vagus nerve which sends a signal to turn up my parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn helps me to feel more relaxed.
I can use the excuse “I’m too busy” all day everyday, but I know I need to stop and take time to slow down. What do you suggest is best for those types of excuses? How do you beat the busy mind, mindset?
While we may try and rid ourselves of this thought and continue being busy, I think it’s important to stop and get to the root of why it’s tough for us to slow down. Is it avoidance of another activity? Are we nervous to sit alone with our thoughts or our people? I think we can become boastful about how “busy” we are and it can become something of a bragging right. Slowing down in all areas of our lives and ensuring we have a proper balance can contribute to creating tools we want /need for happiness. After all, happiness does not come from getting 100 likes on your IG post or having a closet full of clothes or a house full of designer furniture, we create the internal environment for happiness, just us – no one else.
Some websites I enjoy reading to encourage the creation of happiness and mindfulness in my life include: mindful.org, 10percenthappier.com, and theminimalists.com.
Lindsey is a licensed professional counselor practicing in downtown Knoxville. She loves working with young women who struggle with anxiety and depression, as well as a history of trauma. Lindsey is expecting her second child in March so she won’t be taking new clients for a while, but check out her website (lindseykontovich.com) for more information about setting up an appointment in the future. Psychology Today is a great resource in finding a therapist that takes your insurance and can meet your treatment needs. Lindsey is a Georgia Bulldog, having grown up in Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia. She is a sometimes UT Volunteer since she graduated with her Masters from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and can hear the fireworks at Neyland from her house. She enjoys trail running, yoga, reading too many blogs, playing Monster Trucks with her son, and watching Stranger Things with her husband.
If you are feeling like you need immediate support or are suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1800-273-8255) or Helen Ross McNabb Mobile Crisis for those who are in Knoxville and surrounding counties (865-539-2409).