I feel incredibly lucky to be in a phase of life where I love the holiday season. These days I’m in a, “Pass me a cup of pumpkin spice milk while I blow up Mariah’s Everything I want for Christmas“mental state.
But that was not always the case. (I share more information about my own difficult vacation experience in a recent podcast that Jason and I did.)
Holidays can be full of expectations, pressure, and even sadness. During these times, it is helpful to take advantage of the tools you have been developing in your yoga and mindfulness practices.
Here are some holiday mindfulness practices that can help you. Jason and I also did a podcast on this where we share even more ideas. You can listen to it here.
How to navigate great feelings
REMEMBER THAT ALL FEELINGS ARE UNIVERSAL
Loneliness is a common feeling that appears during the holidays. Loneliness can feel like deep pain. When we have uncomfortable feelings, it is easy to make them worse by habitually pathologizing them.
So we put layers to a meaning that is totally unnecessary or even false. We could say to ourselves, “Everyone else belongs except me.” Or ‘Everyone has a partner who loves them and I don’t’.
When we say these things, we are separated from the universal experience of being human. And we feel much worse.
If you find yourself in a mental rabbit hole where you find yourself getting worse, remember that everyone feels lonely at times. You’re not the only person who has felt lonely and there are people around the world who feel lonely right now. In other words, you’re not weird. And in a sense, you are not alone. You are just human.
Having this awareness will not necessarily eliminate the depth of the feeling, but it can reduce that feeling of separation that we often feel.
VIEW YOUR FEELINGS AS AN OBJECT OR FRIEND
Another idea for navigating great feelings is to visualize them outside of yourself. Jason talks on the podcast imagining that feeling is an object.
I like to imagine a difficult feeling as a friend in need of support. Our difficult feelings are really just parts of us that we call to be seen and heard. Therefore, we can make the decision to turn to the feeling and comfort it. Let it be there and try to keep it in place until it changes or passes.
REMEMBER THE LAW OF IMPERMANENCE
When we are in the midst of difficulty, we may feel that time is slowing down. We cannot visualize a time when things are different or life makes sense. I’m here to tell you that everything is fleeting and that feeling will happen too.
Matt Haig is a writer who suffered from suicidal depression more than 20 years ago. He talks a lot about his own “future self.” You still don’t know your future, but it’s important to hold on so you can! He is so grateful that he did it to become his future self. He has an amazing story – he’s an award-winning author, and one of his books is becoming a Netflix holiday movie!
I don’t have the great dazzling success that Haig has, but I’m still grateful to have withstood the panic and depression I experienced more than 20 years ago. When I had panic attacks and was afraid to leave my home, I could never, ever have imagined the happiness, sense of purpose, and self-acceptance I feel now.
All of these ideas for navigating feelings with mindfulness can be a new way to relate to yourself. Mental discipline and active practice will be required. But it works. And it gets easier.
However, if you need more help or have suicidal thoughts, seek help. We need to support each other and normalize getting the help we need to heal and function. As my fantastic psychiatrist reminded me, “There is no virtue for any kind of subtraction!”
Here’s a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and here’s your phone number: 1-800-273-8255 This document provided by Google also has phone numbers for several countries outside the United States. We love you.
Creating connection with family and friends
Since the dawn of time humans have created rituals. These rituals are, in large part, to create connection between them and with nature.
And yet, connecting can be very difficult! While there are family members or friends we look forward to seeing and spending time with, there are others who just don’t! And right now, in this semi-post-pandemic world, opinions are more polarized than ever.
If you are sitting next to someone who is especially combative, you can be absorbed in their combative vortex or you can try a completely different approach: You can enter the room as the most skillful, wise, and compassionate version of yourself.
Instead of entering a room feeling guarded, defensive, ready for a fight, take advantage of this as an opportunity to lean on all the things we learn on our mats:
Sit with the discomfort
Yoga teaches us to sit with the discomfort of the things in our mind. For this day, practice sitting with the discomfort of someone who has a different opinion than you.
Tune in to what’s happening right now. How is your breathing? What is your internal dialogue?
Be generous with your attention. Can you answer what the person’s intention is instead of reacting to your own agenda?
Part of being compassionate is remembering that we are all human with burdens and fears and unresolved issues. Truly, there is a disaster in every person you know. The more you accept this and try to see their humanity, the easier it will be to connect and appreciate them.
Have a sense of humor
Every time I’ve been in the presence of a really cool teacher, his sense of humor about the human being shines through. We can only take ourselves so seriously before we can all implode. You may not be able to show your humor at this time in a holiday meeting, but in this case you can do what the elders pay attention to the words of the great writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron and remember that “Everything is material.”
If all these techniques fail you, you can also go to the bathroom and just breathe. This also works.
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