If you found your Thanksgiving holiday to be more doing (shopping, cleaning, prepping, cooking, serving, hosting, cleaning again) than being (listening, breathing, walking, seeing things and people in a simpler light, enjoying special moments), there’s still hope for you!
The next round of holidays is just around the corner and now is the time to set an intention to s-l-o-w down! Many people have come to realize how stressful this time of year can be and with a child with ASD, even more so. While some things are not within your control to change, some are. Here are some tips:
- Think about your traditions and appraise them in the here and now. For example, if you have always sent out holiday cards, ask if this is still meaningful for you and the recipients. Can you update your list of recipients and shorten it? If this year is particularly stressful, consider not sending cards this year and revisiting the issue next year. If you are nagged by “I should” and “I always”, ask yourself what the worst- case scenario would be if you skip this year. Will anyone disown you?
- Decide more is not better. Too often we spend extra time and money on “filler” such as what goes into a child’s stocking. I realized one year that I spent almost as much on the little stuff as I did on the “main present”. My answer was to stuff the lower half of the stocking with new socks and then add a few items on top. If you have many people on your list for gifts, just give one. Radical idea for the kids, I know! But as kids get older, the things they want are smaller and more expensive. There’s no need to buy more just so they have a lot to open. Last year I bombed on a number of items I bought for my family – things they didn’t really need or want. I vowed to recall this next time. It was one gift that made their day.
- Call to mind the small yet meaningful aspects of the holiday. We tend to get caught up in the gift-giving part and breeze past the moments that truly count. It could be the smell of fresh pine or a song that brings back childhood memories. This year decide to pay attention, to notice the small things. Make a mental note of them.
- Set your own pace. Television and the internet will convince you that time and gifts are running out and that you better hurry or else you’ll miss out. Turn it off. Tune it out. Recognize that the purpose of this is to sell something. Slow down and think through your list.
- Refrain from comparing. Expectations tend to be our downfall when it comes to the holidays. We compare ourselves with our own parents, other families, fictitious families on TV, Face Book families (they seem fictitious sometimes too!) and storybook families of holidays long, long ago. Instead of comparisons, think of possibilities. Leave some room for being adaptable to whatever may come your way.
Wishing you love, peace, and quiet this holiday season!
Halloween is just a soggy sweet memory and you know what that means, don’t you? It means that we’ll soon be hearing holiday music in the aisles as we sip our gingerbread lattes.
It’s so easy this time of year to get swept up in the mad rush to THE HOLIDAYS. Or if you’re like me, you get a little irritated and decide to try and ignore it all. What’s the big hurry?
Now is a good time to set some mindful intentions about what’s to come. Here are some tips for mindful holidays. Stay tuned for more the next couple months.
- Set an intention (or two) for the upcoming holidays. It might sound something like this: “This year I’m going to focus on the meaning of the holiday instead of the marketing of it.” Or “This year I’ll practice self-compassion when things don’t go as planned.” Or “Knowing there will likely be both stress and joy, I’ll expect some of each and be ok with it.”
- Make a list of things that have caused you stress in past years. It might be last-minute shopping or accepting too many party invitations or eating too many holiday goodies. Decide which ones you might be able to address ahead of time in order to lessen the stress.
- Enlist the help and support of friends and loved ones by agreeing to slow down and simplify. This might mean agreeing to a potluck meal instead of doing it all by yourself or the adults agreeing to give to a favorite charity instead of buying gifts for each other.
- Remember that mindfulness means being aware in the present moment. It’s impossible to do this if we’re racing ahead in mind and body.
I love this definition of mindfulness from James Baraz:
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant, without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant, without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
We’re so accustomed to trying to fix things but also moving on to the next bigger and better thing (is that expensive new phone truly that much better than your last one?). This human propensity tends to lead us to try to fix emotional challenges and when that doesn’t work, we often give up.
Say, you’ve had a rough day at work or with the kids and are sharing with your partner whose good-intention answer is to problem-solve your feelings. We all know how well that usually works. We don’t want to quit the job and we can’t quit the kids. I know. I’ve tried. We simply want someone to validate feeling badly. So we offer polite thanks-but-no-thanks for the advice or get more upset for not feeling understood.
What we are asking for, in so many words, is a mindful awareness reminder that we can have bad or hard moments (okay sometimes hours) in our days without needing to declare the entire day a disaster and without needing to do anything at all.
Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise for when you’ve had/are having one of those days.
- Get comfortable – this may be sitting or lying down or moving your body.
- Take three deep breaths in and out.
- Say to yourself – I had some hard moments today. I felt/feel (name the feeling(s)).
- Stay with this for a couple-three minutes. You don’t have to relive the day but also don’t resist if it pops up.
- Say Hard moments are part of life.
- Say Tomorrow is a new day.
That’s it. The point is to validate your feelings without exaggerating, resisting, or judging and with recognition that we all have hard moments. No one is spared.
I recently participated in a thirty-one day Mindfulness Summit, and a handful of presenters were my favorites, including Shamash. I liked his easy-going style and humor and I also just like saying his name. He, like most of the summit speakers, has taught mindfulness for many years and has a book on the subject. While I’ve never cared for the title of this book series, I did enjoy his Mindfulness for Dummies and will share some of his mindfulness tips.
Healthy & Helpful Attitude
Shamash tells us that attitude is an important part of mindfulness and that attitude is a choice. Being aware on the attitudes we bring to life – whether it’s marriage or parenting or our work or practicing mindfulness – can affect the outcome in so many situations. We all know people who seem to have a sour outlook on life. Life is not fair. No one has it as hard as I do. Nothing will ever change. Nobody understands. Why do bad things always happen to me? No one likes me. They seem eternally stuck in unhelpful attitudes.
Shamash identifies these helpful attitudes that are the foundation for a healthy life:
- Acceptance – not giving up but allowing thoughts, feelings, sensations to exist without resistance
- Patience – listen more than you talk, choose the closest rather than the shortest line
- Seeing afresh – try looking at common things with new eyes – what have you missed?
- Trust – believing that both joys and challenges are temporary/ to be expected helps build trust that things are okay
- Curiosity – ask lots of questions about thoughts/feelings/sensations “I wonder what this is about?”
- Letting go – First realize what you’re holding onto. Doing so helps to let it go.
- Developing kindness – non-judgment of self and others
- Appreciating Heartfulness – pay attention to whatever brings you warmth and happiness
- Gratitude – even if not perfect, acknowledge the good there is to your life
- Forgiveness – for self and others – acknowledge being human and that we all are imperfect
Now imagine the opposite attitude of some or all of the above. Identify which of these attitudes you might need a little work on. See if it makes a difference.
Ten Mindfulness Tips from Olympic Runner Deena Kastor
While most of us aren’t bronze medalists, we all have goals and a desire to be the best we can be. I found this article by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee on mindfulness in HuffPost. Here are Deena’s ten tips.
- Live a Quality, Purposeful Life
- Live with an Attitude of Gratitude
- Practice Positivity and Purposefulness
- See Challenges as Opportunities
- Focus on Your Passion
- Live with Continuous Improvement
- Be Excited about Life
- Get Enough Rest
- Turn Nervousness into Excitement
- Take Things One Step at a Time
Click here for the link for the entire article. It’s worth reading. I love this line: “I truly believe my fastest days are behind me and my best days are ahead!”