Christmas shopping and mindfulness

Christmas shopping can be enjoyable if you don’t overdo yourself. Being on your feet for long periods of time, foregoing a meal in order to beat the holiday rush, and carting young kids around crowded areas may be some of the many unanticipated stressors of shopping.

So shop mindfully! Here are some practical ideas to help you this holiday season:

1)    Plan ahead. Give yourself a reasonable number of “trips” or stores to go to, and don’t push yourself past those limits. Last minute changes in deciding where to go can result in long lines, extra traffic, and holiday crowds.

2)    Practice acceptance while waiting in long lines. It may help to soften your facial expression, set your packages down while you wait, and think about all the ways in which you could contribute to making this shopping experience a better one for the people standing in line around you. Allow for all that happens with openness.

3)    Take frequent breaks: every time you come out of a store or go back to your vehicle. A “break” may consist of trying to find a quiet space where sensory overload is diminished (outside, in your car, in a quiet hallway). Try taking several slow breaths to quiet and calm your brain. If you notice headache, fatigue, thirst, sore feet, or agitation you may need to attend to pay more attention to what you can and can’t accomplish in one day (Your body may be trying to tell you “Enough is enough!”).

4)     Don’t skip meals when shopping. Hunger can contribute to your mood and energy level.

5)    Try matching your breathing to your steps every time you exit and/or enter a new store. For instance, inhale for two steps and exhale to four steps. Use this time to focus your attention instead of allowing it to wonder all over the store.

6)    If you have young kids, identify a non-holiday “winding down” song that signals that it is time to leave the store, stop shopping, and take “break”. Singing may be a good way of getting in touch with the breath and can get attention away from distractions.

The exercises above are geared towards helping you slow down, pay attention to your body, notice what you may tend to “push away” or ignore, and re-focus an over-stimulated brain. If you can “rest” your brain, you can stay focused and sane despite barking reindeers, overzealous Santas, and singing polar bears.