Mindfulness: Learning to be present can add peace to the holidays
By Eileen Persike
Three weeks from today is Christmas Day. Three weeks of gift buying and wrapping, cooking, hosting, decorating – all at a Gordon Ramsay or Martha Stewart-level of expertise can be stressful to say the least. But is everything on the to-do list necessary?
Holidays and big events can cause “anticipatory anxiety” in many people, according psychotherapist Kathy Mitchell, MA. Holidays can create unrealistic expectations, comparisons and an unhealthy sense of ‘what I should have,’ versus ‘what I don’t have.’ Plus, it’s easy to miss the everyday things that can bring joy.
“We don’t want to lose a month in the stress of the holidays,” Mitchell said. “We want to be in every day we’re given. As it is.”
Though that may sound easier said than done, Mitchell said it simply involves brain training and practice of the art of mindfulness. For the past decade or longer, she has led mindfulness programs at Ascension Koller Behavioral Health in Rhinelander.
“Mindfulness is a certain kind of focused attention,” Mitchell said. “Teaching bare awareness – seeing things as they are.”
Our biology, she said, has us wired to protect ourselves. How do we do that? By constantly scanning for danger, making snap judgments and predictions.
“It’s a great ability, but we can overdo it,” Mitchell added.
“With mindfulness we train our brains to be more open to every feeling, sight, smell and through available in each moment of life…without avoiding, reacting or becoming overwhelmed,” is stated in a program brochure.
The December Mindfulness program at Koller Behavioral Health is “Calm and Bright in the Holiday Season,” and will be held 1-2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17. It’s a topic that Mitchell has featured in the past.
“I find that it’s important because what people say every year is, ‘I thought I was the only one who felt this way,’” about the stress and anxiety that can come with expectations surrounding holidays, Mitchell said.
Her monthly programs include teaching on the underlying philosophy and the brain science and research that supports the positive outcomes of increasing mindfulness. Participants will learn about activities to train their brains to bring better awareness and balance, staying completely in the moment.
For more information about monthly Mindfulness Programs, call Ascension Koller Behavior Health, 715-361-2805.