Balanced mental and emotional health is a blessing. Many people learn positive coping skills early in life and handle stress or stressful situations with poise and grace. Their skills are second nature and allow them to move through life without sweating the small stuff and direct their energy toward life’s biggest challenges. They’re keenly aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This awareness is the bedrock of their resilience. It provides them with both self-esteem and self-efficacy—meaning they feel good about themselves and they know which thought patterns help them and which don’t.
But what happens when that emotional, spiritual, and psychological balance gets upset by stress? The most confident, together, and resilient people can get thrown off by one time of year: the holidays.
The Holiday Stress Factor
Stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, drinking, and a decline in personal physical, psychological, and emotional maintenance. Statistics published by the American Psychological Association (APA) confirm what all of us know through experience: the holidays can upset the apple cart in a major way. Here’s a quick snapshot of the APA holiday stress data:
- Close to 70% of Americans report being stressed by lack of time
- 85% report this increases during the holidays
- Close to 70% of Americans report stress around lack of money
- 76% report this increases during the holidays
- Over 50% percent of Americans report stress related to giving and receiving gifts
- 70% report this increases during the holidays
- 33 % of Americans report they eat more than usual to deal with holiday stress.
When you combine this data with additional stressors such as social isolation, grief relating to the absence or loss of loved ones, and seasonal depression, it’s no wonder the holidays do a number on us. What most of us need is a simple way to manage the extra holiday stress. We need a way to create strong, positive intentions and inspire ourselves and others to see the happiness and joy in the season, rather than letting it get us down.
The Holiday Paradox
We know the holidays are supposed to be a celebration of love, family, gratitude, sharing, and community—all the good stuff in life. But we also know—both from personal experience and the statistics above—this is not always the actual case for everyone involved. Taking good mental care is a necessity during this time of year. It may be challenging, but we can do it.
A rooted, organic connection between mind, body, and spirit is the cornerstone of maintaining resilience through the holiday season. Relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation are powerful tools you can use to stimulate the kind of connection you need. They create a safe space for facing pleasant and unpleasant emotions, thought patterns, fears, and cravings. Both cleanse your mind and body and inspire you to live in a state of liberation, freedom, and clarity.
You already know exercise strengthens and maintains your body. You may not know that meditation does the same thing for your mind and your emotional well-being. Honoring your mental health through meditation allows you to achieve your full potential, cope with everyday stressors gracefully, live productively, and find meaning in day-to-day tasks. Meditation teaches you to exist with an open heart and open mind.
You can use meditation to cope with the stress that’s bound to come, in some form or another, over the next couple of months. The balance you find will enable you to experience the true joy and abundance of the season. You’ll be more open to heartfelt gratitude, which will inspire you to spread grace and goodwill to your friends, family, and community.
This is our gift to you this holiday season. No reason to wait: open it now. Start today. Open your heart and mind as soon as you finish reading this article. Plant your seed, spread your joy, and encourage growth in yourself and others. You can super-charge your mental and emotional health this holiday—all with meditation.
If you already have a meditation practice, then go, you. Keep it nourishing and flourishing. If you’ve never mediated before, or if you’re a novice, inexperienced meditator and want to experience the benefits of meditation, try the following basic exercise.
How to Meditate: A Simple Mantra Method for Beginners
- Find a safe and comfortable space. You can sit down or lie down—whichever feels best for you.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe naturally. Let the breath flow in and out without controlling it.
- Focus your attention more closely on your breath. Notice how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Feel and observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. If you find tension, acknowledge it without judgment. Then give yourself permission to release it. On your next exhalation, let the tension go.
- Bring your attention back to your breath. Observe your inhalation and your exhalation. If your mind wanders at any point, it’s okay—simply call it back. Return your focus to your breath.
- On your next inhalation silently say to yourself “I am.”
- On your next exhalation silently repeat a positive affirmation such as “Resilient, Strong, Confident, Brave.”
- Stay with this process. With each inhalation repeat “I am” and with each exhalation complete the thought with “Resilient, Strong, Confident, Brave” or whatever works for you. Stay attentive and mindful with your affirmation. You can change your affirmations as you wish, as long as you keep them positive and nurturing.
- Try this meditation practice for two to three minutes the first few times. When you become comfortable—you’ll know when you’re ready—explore it for longer. As your meditation practice progresses, you’ll be surprised how long you can stay in this positive, healing space.
You can do this practice any time of day. In the morning, it can help get your mind right for the day to come. In the middle of the day, it’s a great way to reset and prepare for what your afternoon has in store for you. In the evening, it’s perfect for winding down and putting your mind at ease before bed. No matter when you choose to practice your meditation, remember this mindful adage to keep perspective:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”