Navigating holiday stress can seem nearly impossible, but I have a fix for you: meditation. Between family dinners with in-laws who like to argue, waiting in long lines while holiday shopping, or dealing with inevitable delays while traveling, the holidays can feel like the most stressful time of year. In a perfect world, we would all love to maintain our regular healthy routines through these months, but sometimes, it’s just not possible. So instead of putting pressure on yourself to do it all, stop, take a breath, and find little moments throughout the day to give yourself some self-love with an easy and quick meditation.
Meditation is an amazing tool for keeping calm during stressful moments of the season because it can be done almost anywhere and for any length of time. You also don’t need to have any previous knowledge or experience to start. As a breathwork facilitator and diehard meditation fan, here are five meditations I use consistently to help conquer the holidays with ease and joy.
1. The Starbucks Line Meditation
If there’s one place where it is easy to succumb to anger and stress, it’s a Starbucks line: You’ve been waiting for a while, your to-do list is nowhere near ending, and the clock is just ticking by. Instead, turn the dreaded wait into a quick meditation by Suze Yalof Schwartz from her book Unplug.
Length: However long it takes to get your coffee order
Practice: As you are in line, begin by placing your gaze on your feet and noticing how they feel on the ground. Allow them to really connect to the floor beneath you. Then, very slowly, as the line moves, lift up one foot and place it, heel first, onto the ground in front of you. Continue with the other foot as well in the same slow motion. As you do this, notice how your body moves, how your ankle allows your foot to turn, how your legs work with your feet. Continue in slow motion, taking your time until you reach the barista. Once there, look your barista in the eyes and smile at them, then place your order. Nine out of 10 times, they will smile back; a smile always goes a long way. After you have ordered, continue the slow and careful movements to wait for your coffee. Once it arrives, pick up your coffee and feel the warmth of the cup, bringing it to your face and breathing in the smell before taking a slow sip and allowing the taste to absorb in your mouth. Just like that, your coffee line has turned into an easy reset.
Do you feel like you never have time for mediation? You don’t actually need 20 minutes, 10 minutes, or even one. Instead, try this 16-second meditation any time you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or worried. This meditation by renowned spiritual teacher Davidji is perfect for escaping a high-stress situation and giving yourself a moment of rest.
Length: 16 seconds
Practice: To start, think about something that has bothered you this week. Maybe you missed your flight, lost your wallet, or spilled coffee on your favorite shirt (whatever the first thing is that comes to mind!). Once you have it, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose. Notice how the breath travels all the way down to your belly. Let it sit there for a moment before exhaling back up through your body and out your nose again. Once more, notice the breath as it escapes, pausing as it is released. Now you can return to your normal breathing. That was 16 seconds! If you were following along during those 16 seconds, you were not thinking about the past or the future, you were simply living in the moment. You most likely weren’t even thinking about whatever had been bothering you this week. You were fully present. In just 16 seconds, you can push the stress away.
3. The Traffic Meditation
While some of us get road rage, others just feel triggered by any extra inconvenience during a busy time of year. Suze Yalof Schwartz created this genius meditation for those moments when you feel restless sitting in traffic. Pro tip: While this meditation was initially designed for trips in the car, it’s also great for delayed flights. Think of this meditation as the perfect de-stressor for things that are out of your control.
Length: 1-3 minutes
Practice: The first step is awareness. Start by looking at the road and cars in front of you. Register your surroundings and how you are feeling. Maybe there is no movement, or you are late, stressed, annoyed, or want to scream. No matter how you feel, become aware of everything. The next step is to do a body scan. Start at your feet and notice how they feel, then your ankles, legs, and stomach. Continue until you have registered every part of your body all the way up to the top of your head. The final step is to connect with your breath. Start by breathing in through your nose for four counts, allowing the breath to go down into your belly, holding there for four counts and then letting out for four counts, and finally holding for four again. Repeat this breath a couple of times until you start to feel your body relax. Now, open your eyes and repeat the phrase “it is what it is” three times. Even if the traffic is still there, hopefully, your agitation is gone.
Practicing gratitude is always important, but it’s especially important during the holiday season when it can become easy to lose perspective and let holiday triggers or a busy schedule take over. This gratitude meditation by Deepak Chopra will bring you back around to awareness.
Length: 5 minutes
Practice: Start by finding a quiet place where you can be alone (even your car or a bathroom will work). To begin, close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath in through your nose all the way down to your stomach. Hold it there for a moment before letting it out through your mouth. Pause and then continue the breath a couple more times until you feel more connected and centered. Now focus on your heart, feel it beating, and maybe even place your hands over it if you like. Ask yourself the question, “What are you grateful for?” Allow whatever comes into your mind, and then let the question go. “What are you grateful for?” Let your mind fill with images, words, or people that capture this. Now say to yourself in your mind, “Whatever happens today, I will not judge.” Repeat the phrase a few times. To end, slowly wiggle your hands and feet, open your eyes, and come back into your body.
It’s a long season of delicious desserts, tasty wine, and turkey dinners. Sometimes, it’s hard to say no to it all, which leads us to overeat and not feel great, or other times, we feel guilty when we do want to indulge and enjoy the food that the season has to offer. This meditation by Amanda Gilbert is here to help you eat mindfully, all season long.
Length: 1-5 minutes
Practice: Begin by taking a few breaths to help center and connect to your body before starting. This meditation is meant to be done with food, so once you’re ready, take a moment to look at the meal in front of you. Take in the colors, the smells, and the shapes. Now you can pick up the food, and before you take a bite, ask yourself how you are feeling right now. Are you really hungry? Moderately hungry? Once you know, take your first bite and allow the flavors to burst in your mouth, chew slowly, and take your time before swallowing. How do you feel now? Are you less hungry? Did you enjoy the first bite? Continue to repeat this practice as you take your next bite and so on. Really register each piece of food and remember to eat slowly and mindfully. Once you have taken your last bite, sit for a moment and appreciate the food that filled you. Not too full, but fully satisfied.