How To Keep Your Chill During The Holidays

We all love the holidays. That is, until we’re stuck standing in a never-ending line at the mall or Uncle Pat decides to bring up politics at the dinner table. Hello, stress.

“Prioritizing ‘me time’ could not be more important during the holidays,” says Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation in New York City. “We feel like we have to spend all possible time with family or get everything done, but make sure to save a few quiet moments just for you every day.”

And your ‘me time’ can be anything from walking the dog to lifting heavy. In fact, if your me time usually includes exercise, hold tight to that. “Even if you only have time for an eight-minute workout, that burst of movement will help you burn off stress and reinvigorate you,” Fletcher says.

Related: Check out products that help you manage stress.

Still, stuff happens, and when it does, don’t judge yourself. Instead, use these mini-meditations and mindfulness tips to stay your kindest, most compassionate self, straight through ‘til January.

When Packed Airports And To-Do Lists Are Driving You Nuts…

If you’re scrambling to find the perfect gift for your mom or struggling through a mob in the grocery store baking aisle, consider this: Stress doesn’t translate to good gift-giving. “According to Ayurveda—the ancient teachings we follow in meditation—the state of mind of the gift-giver is as important as the gift itself,” says Fletcher.

So take a moment to feel your feet planted firmly on the ground. “Take a few breaths, breathing in through your nose for two seconds and out through your mouth for four seconds,” says Fletcher. This will help your body to calm itself down by activating the vagus nerve, which connects your brain to your heart, lungs, and gut, she says.

Then, imagine the moment your loved one opens that gift. Take it a step further and picture everyone in the store opening gifts with their families. “Focus on giving with joy, instead of buying the right gift or wrapping it perfectly,” says Fletcher.

When Family Dinner Doesn’t Feel So Sweet…

If the mood starts to shift from jolly to tense because Dad threw a zinger at the significant other you brought home, step away from the table for a moment. Take a few of those deep breaths (exhaling for twice as long as you inhale) to get your body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode, says Fletcher.

When you rejoin the room, focus on the most wonderful thing about the family member who stressed you out. “When you consciously choose to see the good, that positivity takes over,” says Fletcher.

If you still struggle to keep your cool, repeat this affirmation: “They’re doing the best they can.” Remember that their words and actions reflect only their state of mind, not you, Fletcher says.

When You’re Just Not Feeling the Holiday Spirit…

The harder we try to be chipper 24/7 throughout the holidays, the more we stress over feeling down or tired, says Fletcher.

If you’re having a Grinch-y moment, ride it out. “Don’t shove down whatever you’re feeling,” she says. “If you’re sad, cry. If you’re tired, sleep. Do what you need to do to move those feelings through.”

Fletcher’s final recommendation? Volunteer. It’ll offer some perspective. After all, giving your time and a helpful hand is what the holidays are truly all about.