With all of the parties, shopping, and togetherness that the next few weeks will bring, I’ll bet that for every reason you have to be grateful, you’ll also have ample opportunity to be grumpy.
I know from my own experience that the unique holiday combination of too little sleep, lots of navigating crowded places, and a whole lot of family time often adds up to what I like to call GMS — Grouch-Muffin Syndrome.
When I’ve got GMS, any little thing can set my jaw to clenching, whether it’s a honking horn or the way my brother in law, whom I love, starts talking politics—loudly—at the dinner table.
What I have learned to do to defuse my own tension in these situations is to use those triggers as a cue to take a deep breath.
Taking a deep breath may not sound like it will provide much benefit, but it can be transformative. Just one breath gives you enough mental space to reflect before you react. It also helps initiate your body’s relaxation response, thereby deflating GMS’s power over you.
I can’t promise that the change will be instantaneous. Like most mindfulness practices, its effects are cumulative. But that’s OK–you’ll probably have plenty of opportunities to practice in the next few weeks.
How to do it
- Figure out what triggers your stress response most strongly: honking horns, long lines, your Great Aunt Joan’s incessant throat clearing are all great candidates.
- Make a promise to yourself that every time you experience your trigger in these next few weeks, you’ll take a deep, full, long inhale and exhale.
- To up the mindfulness factor, concentrate on feeling the breath flow into and out of your body—follow it through your nose, into your lungs and down to your belly on the inhale and then in reverse during the exhale. This focus helps you take a deeper breath and gives your mind a chance to disengage from whatever is annoying it.
- When a deep breath doesn’t seem to curb your GMS, remove yourself from the situation, even if it’s just for a bathroom break. Sit for a few moments with eyes closed. Imagine you have a bottle of bubbles. As you exhale, imagine filling a stream of bubbles with your stress, and then in your mind’s eye, watch the bubbles float away out of sight.
What do you do in stressful moments to find your Zen? I’d love to hear about it! Start a conversation with me on Twitter (I’m @KateHan) or come post your tips on the Acacia Facebook page.
Here’s to a GMS-free holiday season for all of us!
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