The holiday’s are upon us and whether you celebrate the holidays or not, your comfortable, well-paced routine is thrown by the wayside. Stress is a fact of life and during this time of year it is magnified by the increase in commitments both at home and work. We find that even the fun and exciting times in life are stressful. The question is: How do we experience it all and diminish the symptoms of anxiety and fatigue that surface? Let’s look at a two common issues and how you can intervene and throw yourself a life preserver.
Unless you sit in your house and order every gift and grocery item on the Internet (a good thought, but not practical), you will have to venture out and spend time shopping. Let’s begin with the mall or any department store. (In case of emergency overwhelm, check for the nearest exit when you arrive!) You walk in and are inundated with decorations and crowds, which can feel quite intense. With it all, there is an opportunity to participate in the holiday spirit and your success will be determined by where your attention lies. You have a few options: You can either try to muscle you way through and get your shopping over with (this imparts a Grinch-like attitude), or you can slow down and enjoy the process. The reality is, resistance is futile—you will wait in line or bump into others whether you want to or not, so why not go with the flow? Let me be clear, slowing down does not mean passing up partaking in holiday events. What it means is that while you are participating, you are present.
Last month one of the topics discussed was mindful eating. Now let’s focus on mindful shopping. Rather than rushing through your shopping, take a moment to stand still and look at the decorations, people, colors, and designs. You can take a minute to consider the process of making the products, the abundance of the earth, the talent of creative minds, and the intelligence of business people and logisticians to get the products to us. There is so much happening around us that can be uplifting if we allow ourselves to become immersed in the experience.
When you finish your shopping, you go to meet a friend for lunch. In the frenzy of the crowded parking lot, you have forgotten where you left your vehicle. Even the wreath and reindeer antlers you attached to your car are of no help! You try your key fob but you are too far away to hear the gentle beep you are listening for. Your enjoyable outing ends with frustration and frenzy as you look for a security guard to help you out. Sound familiar? I was watching a show on memory and the host said that anyone’s memory can improve. As they showed one technique, I realized that a lot of what they were talking about was paying close attention. Only in the moment can you stay aware of what is happening around you. (Okay, writing it down helps too.) When you park the car, you are already thinking about what you need to do next and you are on your way, before even looking at markers that will tell you where your car is.
The following practice helps me when I am out and about:
• Get out of the car.
• Stand still and take a breath.
• Look around and find something that will remind you where you are parked (another car would not be a good idea) and bring your focus to that reminder for a few seconds.
• Walk toward you destination and notice where you are and what you are passing as you do this.
• If you are taking an elevator from a parking deck, notice which side the elevators are on, which direction you turned and where you are entering. You can use this technique throughout your day.
The key is to stay present with what you are doing at that moment. It takes time to make this shift, so start with easy things, like your coffee mug or cell phone. (These are my top two.)
This season will go so much smoother when you take pleasure in shopping, you easily locate your car, and indulge in some down time. My wish for you is to embody the themes of Christmas and Hanukah (as well as the chocolate). Give birth to a relaxed way of being and enjoy the miracle inherent in sharing your inner light with everyone around you. It is the gift that keeps giving. Happy Holidays!
Let me know in the comments below if you had the opportunity to try these simple changes. Were you able to try some mindful shopping? If so, did it make a difference?