What are Dreams?
The winter holiday season comes packed with decorating, hanging lights, buying presents, spending time with family, traveling, navigating financial commitments, baking, and lots of planning. Even typing that list out felt overwhelming and that’s just scratching the surface. It is easy for the joy of our holidays to become overshadowed by all the stress that gets piled on us. Typically as the stress builds, we begin to notice ourselves feeling more easily irritated, emotionally drained, and looking forward to the holidays being over instead of actually enjoying them.
While we can often feel overstimulated by too many sensations, we can also use our five senses to help round ourselves. This means using what you can physically experience to help bring yourself out of your thoughts and to become more aware of what is going on around you.
The lights, colors, sparkles, and holiday music can be alot when mixed together. When feeling overstimulated or stressed, try some of these exercises to ground you through your senses.
This exercise combines mindfulness with sensory grounding. Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. This will also work with a simple glass of water. Take a moment to first notice how the cup looks. What can you notice about the design of the mug? Do you see bubbles in your drink or see the steam rising? Then closing your eyes, take a moment to smell your drink. Can you smell the hot chocolate and the marshmallows? Take a tiny sip of your drink and slowly swish it in your mouth. Is it hot or cool? Is the taste sweet or bitter? As you swallow, pay attention to how the drink feels as it goes down your throat. What additional sensation can you notice with each sip?
Light a Candle
Scents such as lavender or chamomile promote relaxation. When you light the candle, give yourself a few minutes to slow your breathing and take in the scent.
Focus on a Certain Object
When feeling stressed by the busyness around you, choose an object that you can see. You may even pick up whatever object you choose. Take a minute to observe the object and list out as many descriptors that you can come up with about it. Try going through your five senses to create more descriptors. For example, if you chose a snow globe you may choose to shake it and take note of what happens inside. You may reflect on if the snow globe is heavy or light, if it plays music or jingles, or if it glitters in the light.
Eat a Snack
If you are noticing yourself going over your to-do list nonstop or becoming overwhelmed by the conversations around you, take a moment to eat a snack or pop in a mint. Often our sense of taste can help shock us or give us momentary focus on what we are consuming. You may choose to try placing a piece of chocolate and letting it melt on your tongue before focusing on your to-do list again.
The purpose of practicing mindfulness is to help clear your mind and keep you in control of your thoughts. It is easy to become stressed about to-do lists, present shopping, and all that goes into holiday planning. When you practice mindfulness, you are building the skills that help you to slow down your thoughts and focus on what you want to give mental space to, not just the stressors that demand your attention.
Practice these mindfulness exercises daily or as often as you find yourself needing to take control over your thoughts and deal with holiday stress.
Listen to a Guided Meditation
Guided meditations can easily be found online. They consist of either an audio sample or a written script that guides you through your own thoughts. Some meditations are only a few minutes, while others can be 15-20 minutes. With the variety available online and through apps, you can find which meditations feel right for you. Try out the script below to help you deal with holiday stress:
- Take a moment to sit in a comfortable position, resting relatively upright. Close your eyes or choose a spot to focus on. Then when you are ready, imagine yourself in a snowy forest. Picture the tall fir trees around you, the snow nestled on their branches. Look around and see if there are bushes or fallen branches on the ground near you. As you look around the forest, you see there is a snowy path up ahead. You begin walking forward and hear the crunch of snow under your feet. As you focus on the crunch of your footsteps, let all other sounds fade. You are alone in the peaceful, snowy forest. As you pause on the snowy path, you notice snowflakes slowly drifting from the sky. As they gracefully land on your coat, you notice they begin to slowly melt and disappear. If you notice thoughts popping into your mind, about things you need to do or upcoming plans, imagine these thoughts also slowly melting away like the snowflakes. Each time a stressful thought arises, acknowledge it and let it slowly melt away. For now, let yourself focus on the crunch of the snow and the delicate snowflakes falling on you. Lift your face to the white snow clouds and take in three deep breaths. With your final breath, slowly open your eyes.
Remind Yourself of What is Going on in the Present
Instead of only focusing on what is coming up or how many things you have to do, focus on what it is you are currently doing. If you have a long to-do list, focus on one task at a time. You may need to ask others to help or prioritize your tasks. When we are stressed, we tend to think we must handle everything at once. However, it has been found that most people are not as good at multitasking as they feel they are. Instead of overwhelming yourself with several things, let yourself focus on completing a single task at a time.
Gratitude Journal for Dealing with Holiday Stress
When everything is feeling like too much, take a few moments to acknowledge what you feel grateful for and what brings you joy during this holiday season. This will help you deal with holiday stress. You may choose to write down a list or say the things outloud. The things on your list can be simple, such as feeling grateful for your morning coffee or that someone else took the trash out. By making space for gratitude, we take power and focus away from the stressors we face.
Give Yourself Time to Self-Reflect
During the busyness of the holiday season, it is easy to get swept away in everything that brings you stress. Take a few moments to remind yourself what is important to you and what you value. Do you feel the most important thing is getting all the decorations perfect, or is it actually that you value creating a comfortable home full of love? By realigning with our values, we are better able to navigate what is overwhelming us. Let yourself slow down and identify any needs you are neglecting during the busyness of the holiday season.
While we always look for the joy and love this time of year brings, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the expectations and busyness of this time of year. Try grounding yourself and giving time for mindfulness through this holiday season. Tis the season, not for stress, but for joy and love.
Start Receiving Support From Therapists in Savannah, GA
Whether you feel particularly stressed during the holidays or life in general has become more overwhelming with every passing day, there is help. Please connect with a professional counselor at Water’s Edge Counseling. Our team is honored to offer support from our Savannah, GA-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by giving us a call at 912.319.5552 or emailing us at [email protected].
Other Services Offered With Water’s Edge Counseling
We understand that you may experience issues with more than one mental health concern at a time. This is why we are happy to offer support with a variety of mental health services. Our team is happy to offer support with multiple mental health services including online counseling, clinical supervision, coping after a cancer diagnosis, and SCAD student counseling. We are also happy to offer therapy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, teen substance abuse, and counseling for men. In addition, we also offer counseling for teens, child counseling, family counseling, Christian counseling, grief counseling, and marriage counseling.
Please note: While this blog is designed to help people achieve their goals, the information within each post is not a substitute for therapy or medical advice given by a licensed professional.