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5 Tips for Moms to Survive and Thrive During the Holidays

Posted by: Pip & Grow Published on: December 11, 2017

Mindful Holiday

The holidays are upon us. Why is this time of year so STRESSFUL? We reached out to mindfulness guru Kathryn Greenberg Wilcox for a few suggestions on how to survive and thrive during the holidays. She gave us five, 30-second-or-less exercises to help us survive and thrive during the holidays.

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)

It’s one thing to read about a spiritual practice, helpful as it may be, and entirely another to incorporate it into daily life, especially in the midst of holiday frenzy. The essence of mindfulness, however, is simple and almost intuitive.

Mindfulness practice take effort initially, but with practice, it will become part of your daily living habits. It just requires a focusing of thought and awareness. Mindfulness is all about being in the moment. By focusing on the present and not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future, we’re better able to navigate the ups and downs of life without getting overwhelmed.

Below you’ll find five, 30-second-or-less exercises to help you survive and thrive during the holidays  

1. Just… Breathe

The best way to start practicing mindfulness is through your breath. You will always have it with you, it is free, and the more you practice, the more you will find its healing and grounding powers.

Breath-work helps us bypass the brain and stimulate healing from the inside out. It’s a type of active meditation that helps draw our attention away from the thinking brain…and we all know where a “thinking brain” can lead us!

Don’t think about the next thing you have to do or the fight you had with your spouse this morning. See those thoughts like the clouds crossing a bright, blue sky. Observe them, witness them, just notice them without emotion or judgment and let them go, returning your focus to your breath and your current situation. Accept what is, not what you wish were.

Practice the following mindful-breathing exercises when you wait in line or stop for a light, cook dinner or stand in an elevator – anywhere you are breathing.

Exercise: Simple, Present Breath

Pay attention to breathing in and breathing out. Your breath doesn’t have to be long or short. You just have to follow your in-breath and your out-breath. Simply focusing on your breath will bring your attention lightly but completely to your current activity.

Exercise: Counting Breath

Inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat until you feel centered, grounded and more peaceful.

Exercise: Tension release breathing

Think while breathing in, “I’m aware of my body,” and while breathing out, “I release tension in my body.” Pay attention to any parts of your body that are tensed — your lips, your neck, your back — and consciously relax that part.

E.g. Breathe in, “I’m aware of my body.“ Breathe out, “I release tension in my neck.”

2. Practice Compassion

When your family member makes a remark that gets under your skin, pause and take a moment to breathe in, breathe out without tension or judgment. Do your best to become conscious of the moment before you react. When you are aware of that moment, the moment before you react, then you have a choice about how you will react, whether in anger or kindness, dismay or trust, excitement or tolerance. If you’re aware, then you have a choice.

Try and understand that everything humans do and say comes from somewhere. I believe that we are all doing the best we can with what we have, and that is enough. People will say hurtful things, they will lash out, but we can look at what need they are trying to have met. We can send them off with love.

Developing this practice isn’t easy, but it is SO WORTH IT. It is a daily practice that will become a habit. Your peace is always more important than trying to understand why something happened the way it did.

3. Give a Three-Breath Hug

This is a loving way to calm emotional outbursts.

While hugging your child, take three deliberate, synchronized, deep breaths together. Drop your shoulders and relax any muscles that feel tight. Let go and feel the tension melt away. Teach the hug to your kids and your partner. Little ones love it and teenagers secretly do, too. Use it as you say good-bye in the morning, when you recognize that your child could use a calming hug, or just for the love of it.

4. Look into Their Eyes

See your child, notice him or her, look into her eyes, deeply, and see the precious little one who is learning and growing and loving you. You see them everyday, but take a moment to drink them in. These moments (for better or worse) won’t last forever.

Each moment is an opportunity for us to refocus our lens of attention. Stop what you are doing. Look into your child’s eyes. Take a breath… Make a silent, loving promise to yourself to savor what really matters. See how one small mindful break can potentially transform an ordinary moment.

5. Choose to…

When I find myself pulled into a pessimistic place, the most beneficial thing I have learned to do is to begin a thought with “I choose to/I get to” instead of “I have to.” Rather than, “I have to wrap all of these presents, I get to wrap all of these presents and my kids will be so excited to open them.”

When you find that your perception has veered toward the negative, experiment with beginning a thought with “I get to” rather than “I have to.” It’s vital that this not be forced but is rather a gentle encouragement in the shift of your approach. Practice this when you don’t “need it” because when you do, the skill will be there.

All There Is

By practicing mindfulness we can interrupt anxiety with gratitude. We can understand that comparison is a joy burglar. We can breathe, and truly focus on our breath. We can choose to live in this moment, this breath, because, after all, it is the only moment we really have.

Bonus Tip: Save Yourself Some Stress (a shameless Smitten plug)

Traveling this holiday with a little one? Ship a Smitten ahead to your destination and know that you’ll have one less thing to pack and all of the ingredients for safe sleep awaiting your arrival.


Kathryn Greenberg Wilcox is a mindfulness evangelist in Sarasota, Florida. She developed and teaches a life-skills course based on Mindfulness and Dialectical Behavior Therapy for women in jail designed to help them choose effectively, reduce recidivism, and engage in a Life Worth Living.

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