Joy and “Skrooginess” – Coping with Holiday Stress (MBSR)

December 20, 2016 | Dr. Theresa O'Halloran

Ho! HO! Ho! He! He He! Ahhhhhhhhhrgh!

Ah, the Holidays! Shopping for just the right gift, kids out of school – excited and antsy, cooking traditional favorites and new dishes for varied guests, hanging lights, decorating and cleaning house, rushing from work to the next activity, memories and new experiences, and time with family and friends. Such a wonderful time, so much laughter and joy is possible. Some days however, we don’t feel so joyous – we are most aware of feeling the time crunch, the long TO DO list, stress, anxiety, irritation, impatience, and downright Skrooginess!

Staying present throughout the hustle and bustle can bring more joy into the Season. Being present for more of the moments of the Holiday season can help us notice moments of joy throughout our tight schedule, and rushing from task to task.

Mindfulness practice is pretty mainstream right now. Mindfulness is being explored on CNN, in blogs, and books, in our workouts and workplaces. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware in the present moment without judgement. We are fully aware – we use our senses and let go of judgment of whether this is a good or bad moment when we are mindfully aware. Mindfulness can be explored in formal meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other centering practices.

Mindfulness can also be explored and experienced in moments of mindfulness. You may not have time right now to start a new meditation or yoga practice, but you DO have time to pause and center. Mindfulness Moments are brief, focused activities you can engage in to reduce the Skrooginess within and free up the joy.

Choose from these Mindfulness Moments:

Breath Awareness: Pause. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Bring awareness to the breath. You are breathing, You are HERE.

Half-smile meditation: Pause. Breathing In, make a little half-smile. Breathing Out, relax. In – Half-smile; Out – Relax. Excellent to use as you wait in line, or at a stop light. The act of smiling stimulates pleasure centers in the brain. Use this moment to smile.

Taking It All In: Pause. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Use all your senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to savor the moment. Savor the moment in the middle of the bustle of shopping, gift opening, or serving dinner. This mindfulness moment can bring you into awareness of the Salvation Army bells ringing outside the stores and the goodness of the season.

Washing the Dishes: (yes even this can bring you greater joy!) As you wash the dishes, or even just one pan, be fully present. Notice the temperature of the water, the texture of the sponge, the scents of the pan and soap, and how you feel in your body as you stand at the sink. As you reflect on washing the dishes, be sure to fully exhale.

Body Awareness: Home or work feeling chaotic? Bring your attention to your body. Scan from head to toe. Notice areas of tension and areas of ease. Visualize breathing into areas of tension. Notice your shoulders drop, your back relax, and ease throughout.

Breathe: Breathing in and out. Just notice. Then breathing in to the count of two, and out to the count of four. Fully exhaling helps to calm the nervous system. Key times to use this practice: each time you enter and sit in the car, and each time you hang up your coat. Pause and breathe three breaths – In for two, Out for four. This will bring your awareness to the present moment and ready you for the next activity.

AM: With your first cup of coffee or tea, sit quietly in the dark as the sun rises, set your intention for the day. Possibly: bring joy, offer love, or spread kindness.

PM: As you let your head hit the pillow, take several moments to review your day. Bring special attention to moments of kindness and connection you felt during the day. Savor these moments. Taking time to review and “stay with” positive experiences helps the sweeten your implicit memory system and increase happiness.

The Holidays are a perfect time to practice Mindfulness Moments. Print this out or save the blog page and select a few specific mindfulness moments you can implement this Season.

You may also want to consider deeper exploration of mindfulness practice. There are two great opportunities coming up:

Omaha Meditates ( is sponsoring seated meditation with instruction throughout the city on New Years Day. Omaha Integrative Care will be sitting 1-2PM at OIC Main (1812 N 169 Plaza).

And new sections of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) begin in January (Wednesday evening and Friday afternoon). MBSR is a structured 8-week group plus a retreat day, in which we learn and practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. We practice weekly in class and at home. NO experience necessary – we begin at the beginning.

Students report: “I love the yoga training. My body feels more flexible and alive.” “I am more aware and accepting of my thoughts and feelings.” “I am less judgmental of self and others.” “I’ve made mindfulness a daily practice.”

For more information on MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) and to register, contact OIC at Or call Theresa O’Halloran at 402-619-1060.

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