The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it the excitement of festivities, the joy of giving, and the company of friends and family. However, for many, this time of year can also usher in a wave of stress and anxiety better known as the “holiday blues”.
The pressures of the holidays can leave us feeling overwhelmed and, at its worst, disconnected from the true spirit of the season. It’s during this time that stress can rear its ugly head, tapping into our worries about finances, the pressures of social expectations, family issues, and the overall looming deadlines to ensure everything is just right. In addition, many individuals experience devastating loss that destroys their ability to maintain a healthy physical, mental, and emotional well-being during this time of year.
In the midst of this whirlwind, it’s essential to discover ways to anchor ourselves, to find a sense of inner calm that can withstand the holiday chaos.
Martial arts offer more than just a means of self-defense or physical fitness; it provides a blueprint for mental fortitude and emotional equilibrium. The principles ingrained in martial arts—focus, patience, and self-control to name a few—serve as invaluable tools to navigate the maze of holiday stresses.
The ancient wisdom found within martial arts is the antidote for many of our modern challenges – including those of the holiday season. These teachings offer a sanctuary of peace, enabling us to navigate the holidays with resilience, serenity, and a renewed sense of inner strength.
Mental Fortitude and Emotional Equilibrium
The foundation of our mental and emotional well-being lies heavily within stress management.
Whether it is in a day-to-day scenario or around the holidays, the ability to recognize a potential stressor is the first step in learning how to manage them. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (2023) suggests the following when dealing with stress:
- Accept your Needs.Recognize what your triggers are. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it’s reasonable to, and to cope when you can’t.
- Manage your Time.Prioritizing your tasks can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule or even a list of “to-do’s” helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines.
- Set Aside Time for Yourself.Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage, or taking your dog for a walk.
- Exercise Daily. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health. Do something that YOU enjoy!
The holiday season can create and even exacerbate existing stressors, so it’s important to recognize where we are mentally and emotionally before accepting additional pressures of the season into our lives. If it is something you know will agitate you, but you cannot avoid it, it’s time to tap into the coping skills that are taught within the martial arts discipline.
Martial arts are rooted in balance which requires focus, patience, and self-control. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness mentioned, managing your time is essential. It is easy to become overwhelmed, lose focus and patience, and quickly deteriorate when events and expectations are piling up around you.
Our online platform holds a secret to learning how to prioritize: the art of breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.
As our curriculum was developed, our instructor team integrated the value of task management – students do not become overwhelmed with the amount of content lying before them, but rather prioritize what comes next by following our easy-to-understand personalized dashboard. Each activity is separate, and builds upon the previous activity, utilizing a linear learning method that has proven to be effective in skill acquisition.
When the events and expectations begin piling up, use this same concept and break them down into smaller pieces to take one at a time. If you’re able, delegate smaller tasks to friends and family so you can focus on the overall outcome.
In addition, make sure to set aside some time for yourself, doing something that you enjoy. This is a vital piece to navigating the stressors of the season, when many feel as if they are moving day to day for everyone but themselves.
Finally, exercise! Whether you’re utilizing our flexible online platform to get your exercise or simply taking your dog for a walk, physical activity not only promotes stress-relieving hormone production, but it just feels good. Since many holiday activities include overindulging, it’s important to stay the course and maintain your regular exercise/diet regimen for your complete well-being.
Create Your Sanctuary of Peace
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts (Mindful, 2023). It also means an individual isn’t overly reactive or overwhelmed by their environment.
Martial artists are taught mindfulness from the beginning of their training: to be aware of their bodies, surroundings, and others around them. They are also taught to factor in the consequences of variables they encounter so they can predict and strategize a favorable outcome.
This same strategy applies to holiday stress. Becoming more aware of your environment and those around you helps create a clearer picture of your potential hurdles or roadblocks.
The American Psychiatric Association (2023) recommends the following to practice the art of mindfulness:
- Take a Break. The holidays can feel like one event or responsibility after another, so if you need to take a break…do it. Taking just a moment to breathe can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
- Get Fresh Air/Sunlight. Since our online platform is easily accessible, grab your phone and head outside to practice! Not only is fresh air and sunlight beneficial for your physical health, but it has been proven to aid in mental/emotional well-being.
- Prevent Burnout. It’s ok to say no! Prioritize and simplify what you can and accept that sometimes it’s ok to decline an activity that may cause you stress.
- Talk to Someone. “While the struggle can feel isolating, remember that you are far from alone. Talk with supportive friends and family and seek help from a professional if you need to, maintain your self-care routines, and consider including mindfulness practices into your days as you navigate your way through the holidays” (APA, 2023).
In addition, if you have had trouble dealing with grief and loss, it is recommended to honor and celebrate them by getting together with other family members and friends. It provides an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize their stories, especially stories that highlight important aspects of their life and personality (APA, 2023). While it may be difficult to face these losses, many therapists and mental health professionals encourage this practice.
Mindfulness is a multi-faceted tool that can assist you with physical, mental, and emotional challenges. It provides a pathway of serenity that, when coupled with resilience, allows you to cope and move past those feelings of being overwhelmed during the holiday season.
As we wrap up the year, the flurry of festivities, the pressure of gift-giving, and the expectation of joy during grief can sometimes lead to the ‘holiday blues’. However, amid this chaos, there exists a path to finding calm within the storm—a journey that combines the age-old wisdom of martial arts with the transformative power of mindfulness.
By breaking down your tasks and creating an environment that is focused on serenity, it is easier to navigate the stressors of the holiday season. If you can delegate smaller tasks, do it. If you need to take a moment to enjoy something like a walk or a massage, great. Making the effort to participate in your own mental and emotional well-being during a time that is notoriously stressful is important.
Martial arts and its inherent benefits offer invaluable tools to navigate the holiday season (and the rest of the year!) with resilience, tranquility, and a renewed sense of inner balance. Utilize the age-old wisdom found within martial arts to transform your holiday season!
American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Seven Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/seven-ways-to-cope-with-holiday-stress
Mindful. (2023). What is Mindfulness? Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2023) Managing Stress. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Individuals-with-Mental-Illness/Taking-Care-of-Your-Body/Managing-Stress