All I Want For Christmas Is Mindfulness

All I Want For Christmas Is Mindfulness

All I want for Christmas is Mindfulness

What do you think of when you think of the holiday season? 

If life were a Hallmark movie, I’m willing to bet you’d say, “Oh, Kylie! Why, the holidays are just filled with romance and excitement. I think of my family, the first fresh snowfall of winter, Christmas cookies, and copy-and-paste generically handsome men that are going to soften my no-nonsense heart and show me the true meaning of Christmas!” And while that description may actually jingle true for some, the holidays can also be extremely overwhelming and bring up feelings of grief, disappointment, isolation or even anger. 

Has anyone else noticed that about the leads, by the way? It’s like Hallmark and The Bachelor have the same casting director. 

Our natural tendency is to avoid or escape from pain in any way that we can, which can look different depending on the person. During the holidays, however, it’s typical that someone might push away the painful emotions by filling their moments with the commercialized “holiday spirit.” “Who can think about trauma when there are gingerbread houses to build? Why bother feeling sad when this is a season of joy! I must feel joy!”

If your life doesn’t meet the unrealistic standards of the holiday entertainment industry, consider what it might feel like to have a mindful holiday season instead.

Presence, not Presents

Obviously, getting and giving presents is great. Everyone knows it and there are already entire blog posts and books on love languages and the best gift to give your estranged Aunt Margaret, so we’re going to focus on “presence” instead.

When we talk about “presence” in this article, we’re talking about being connected to the present moment. It’s normal for our minds to wander into past and future thinking, but it becomes an issue when we live in that space and disconnect from the here and now. Let’s use the example of trying your hand at a new recipe. Wondering what everyone will think of it is typical and can help you pay extra attention to detail. Living in that future oriented thinking might cause perfectionism, obsessive thoughts, or possibly a “what if they hate it so why even bother” mentality. 

Some other examples of future oriented thinking would be:

“I need to finish all of these tasks before my parents come into town!”

“I wonder if my family will bring up politics again?”

“How in the world will I fit in all the holiday parties?”

And some examples of past oriented thinking: 

“I wish I could travel to see my family like I have in previous years.”

“How could I enjoy the holidays without -insert loved one- there this year?”

You can see how living in any of those spaces may cause a disconnect in the present. To stay connected or reconnect with the present moment, we have to practice being intentional with our focus. Just like any other skill, all it takes is a bit of practice! Try bringing your full attention to the activity you are doing instead of multi-tasking activities or thoughts. If your mind easily wanders from the task at hand, use your 5 senses to keep you grounded (sight, sound, taste, feel/touch, smell). Some festive ways you can practice being present are:

– Engaging in your favorite holiday tradition.

– Observing holiday lights / décor

– Baking or being your favorite chef’s taste-tester

– Connecting with a loved one

*Remember, the trick here is to immerse yourself fully and solely in this one activity by paying attention to what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling.

Gift of Self-Compassion

As noted above, the holiday season brings a specific pressure to be “merry & bright,” but what if that’s not truly how we feel? Trying to force ourselves to experience emotions that don’t align with how we actually feel and then behave accordingly is another way that we disconnect from the present moment. Just like we make space to put out our holiday decorations, we must intentionally make space for our emotions, no matter what they may be. 

One way to do this is by practicing mindful check-ins with ourselves.

Take a few moments each day to ask yourself:

“What am I feeling in this moment?”

“Where am I noticing this emotion show up in my body?”

“What thoughts are running through my mind?”

“How do I want to respond in a situation (instead of just reacting)?”

It’s truly an act of self-compassion when we acknowledge how we are feeling in any given situation without the need to change or criticize it. Getting to know yourself in a judgement free space allows you to become familiar with how your brain and body react and interact to people and situations. 

Another way to show yourself compassion this holiday season is to consider what boundaries you will need to practice to feel safe and respected. 

A few areas to consider boundaries might be around your:


“I will only be staying at the party until 7:30pm.” 

“I’m sorry, I am unable to make it this time.”


“I can only bring 1 dish to the holiday dinner.” 

“I am not able to pick you up from the airport this year.”


“I’m not really a hugger. I prefer handshakes.” 

“I am feeling tired and am going to take a break.”


“I would prefer not to talk about XYZ, so please don’t bring it up again.” 

“I appreciate your advice, but right now I just need you to support me by listening.”

Reflection, not Perfection

The end of the year creates a wonderful opportunity to look back on what went well and what could have gone better. Reflecting on moments, people, or events we are grateful for has been found to improve our overall mood and sense of connection with others. It also allows us to consider what we would like to cultivate in the coming year and recognize what may no longer be serving us.

A few activities I’ve found the most helpful in my end-of-the-year self-reflection practice:

– Journaling 3 things I am grateful for and why. I ask myself, “What did I feel at the time and how do I feel about it now?” “What did it mean to me?”

– Visualizing a specific time in the past year when I felt joy and gratitude, and letting myself feel those same emotions in the present moment.

– Setting intentions for the new year based off my experiences in the past one. I ask myself, “What worked for me and what didn’t work for me?” “What brought me joy and what didn’t?” “What are things I can change now, and what might take a bit more time?”

*Remember, self-reflection is a practice in holding space for all of our experiences without judgement. Reflecting on gratitude should not invalidate or diminish the importance of our other emotions. 

Reflection also offers the chance to measure our growth, and plan for the growth we’d like to see in the coming year. We know that mindfulness is a journey and not a destination, which means we’re always going to be adjusting and shifting as we learn new things about ourselves and how we interact with the world around us, and that’s totally okay! No one expects a novice to have the skills of a professional. If you’re just starting out on your mindfulness journey, it’s okay to not have it perfected. You wouldn’t become fluent in a language without speaking it brokenly first, right? We can be gracious with ourselves as we develop the skills we need to enjoy a holiday season, and not just survive it.


COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Your Mental Health

As trauma therapists, we’ve seen the impact of COVID-19 and quarantining first hand. And we’ve even felt the impacts ourselves. From spending more time than usual at home, to hearing statements like these more than we ever thought we would:

“How’s your quarantine coming?

“How are you holding up with all of this craziness?”

“Do you like my new facemask? My grandma made it.”

“Hey, do you know what day the store stocks toilet paper?”

It’s odd… isn’t it? That these statements are our new normal. Most of us have been stuck at home for almost two months now and the end may be near in Dallas, but the fear that comes with that can be debilitating. We all have so many questions that go unanswered and yet have so much time to dwell on the unknown.

Maybe for some of you, this quarantine has been a great time to catch up on things, get that extra workout in, and spend more time with your loved ones.

For others, it may not seem so pleasant.

This may be the first time that you’ve truly felt out of control, you don’t know what’s coming next and the idea of staying in the house another day seems almost unbearable. You want your freedom back, you want your routine back, and frankly, you just want your life to feel like your own again. For some people, COVID-19 is amping up their anxiety. For some, their response is manifesting as depression. For others, it’s activating past experiences of trauma and feeling out of control. 

Today we’re going to dive into some difficulties that some of you may be going through during this pandemic and we’ll explore some coping strategies to help you get through COVID-19.

Common responses to COVID-19

Although there are some people that are enjoying this quarantine, the majority of people are starting to feel it wear themselves down. It seems that the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. Anxiety is spiking. Depression is louder than ever. Social isolation is tough.

But… no matter what you feel, you’re not alone in this and your feelings are valid.

Most people have never been through an experience like this before and it can be difficult to know how to respond. So let’s take a look at some of the difficulties you may be experiencing right now:

1) Social Isolation

We are naturally social beings. Yes, even you introverted ones need people too. Most of you will say that being with people gives you energy, makes you feel loved, and keeps you more active.

This may be the longest you’ve gone without seeing friends or relatives and it’s starting to take a toll.

Going without your loved ones may be causing you to feel sad, lonely, and maybe even a bit lost.

2) Anxiety

Maybe you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a long time and this quarantine is making it more difficult to maintain balance. Or maybe you’ve never had any history of anxiety and yet you find yourself feeling restless and worrisome with uncontrollable thoughts. These anxious feelings are normal in times like these.

Feeling out of control is scary and if we only knew what came next it would put your mind at ease. But we don’t, and the thought of the unknown is keeping you up at night.

3) Dreams and nightmares

This is a common response to any sort of crisis. You are constantly hearing about the negativities coming from COVID-19, you have so much time to dwell on it, and it has impacted your everyday life immensely.

Being surrounded by talk of COVID-19 and the stress that comes with it can definitely lead to vivid dreams and scary nightmares. In a way, it can be an outlet for your mind to try and process the craziness of your everyday life.

Dreams and nightmares can also come about when you are feeling a lack of control in your life. You may be feeling tired, exhausted, and stressed with a yearning for peace again.

4) Drinking more than your normal

When people drink, they typically do it because they want to “loosen up” or even let go and feel less in control. So it makes complete sense that in the middle of a pandemic you start drinking more. Drinking may be your way of coping with some of the worries you have around this pandemic.

Or it can be less about your worries and more about things like.. you’re in the house… a lot, you don’t have to stress about early mornings with the kids, and…you’re probably bored. It’s important to make sure that your increase in drinking doesn’t become your only outlet for your fear or boredom.

Although all of these responses to COVID-19 are difficult to be dealing with, they’re all valid. It’s hard to feel alone and it’s difficult to feel like you’re not in control of your life.

Waking up to nightmares and strange dreams can be challenging when you feel like your everyday life is already a nightmare. And drinking may be fun in the moment, but maybe when you wake up you realize your worries haven’t gone away.

So what are some healthy ways to help you cope during this pandemic?

Coping mechanisms for COVID-19

1) Focus on what you can control

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the things that are going wrong right now. Whether it be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, a lack of proper materials, or the current state of the economy, they can overwhelm us when we dwell on them too long.

One way to help ease your worry is to focus on what you can control. This is actually a wonderful strategy for anxiety management.

There is a little exercise that can help you put things into perspective for you. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a big circle in the middle. Inside the circle, begin writing things that you are in control of. This can be your daily routine, what you eat, your attitude, etc.

On the outside of the circle, you will write down things that are out of your control. This can include any of the unknown things like when everything will open back up, what the weather will be, how many more people are going to be affected, etc.

The point of this exercise is to help you see the things that you can focus on. It may be important for you to know what’s going on in the world and with the community around you, and it’s great that you want to be informed! However, there’s a difference between knowing and dwelling. When you dwell on the knowledge you begin to worry about things that are out of your control.

When you’re worried about something out of your inner circle of control try letting it go and picking something within your circle that you can work on. This can help bring a sense of control to your life.

 2) Make a routine

As much as you may love a vacation for a week when you can just go with the flow and not stress about anything, there’s a point where you want to have structure again. And that’s exactly how many people are feeling now.

Humans are naturally routined creatures. Have you ever walked into a new class where there wasn’t assigned seating so the choice of an uncomfortable plastic chair was all yours?

Maybe you’re the front row, raise your hand type of student, or the back row, texting in class one. Either way, what happens the next time you go back to that class?

You pick the same seat. Sometimes you even feel like it’s YOURS…

“How dare Becky think she can take my spot the third week into courses!”


That’s because routines give us control.

They calm your anxiety by helping you know what’s coming next, and they give your mind space to work on other things since you’re decreasing the number of decisions to be made.

This is exactly why making a routine for yourself now may be the answer to your worries.

Insider tip: this is also FANTASTIC for you moms and dads with children. You can create weekly schedules or day-to-day ones to help your youngins have some structure. Maybe less screen time and more say… quiet time? Chores? The possibilities are endless.

3) Exercise or Pick up Hobbies

The benefits of exercising in times like these are immense. You can add it to your daily routine to make you feel more productive, you can experience the rush of endorphins to make you feel positive, and you can be proud that you’re staying disciplined in the midst of the unknown.

You can get a good workout at home in just 20 minutes a day. There’s HIIT cardio or circuit training to help get your heart rate up by doing simple body movements.

20 minutes of this and you’ll be ready to take your second morning nap. Even going outside and walking for 20 minutes can help you feel better! And it’s also a great way to get the whole family involved.

If exercising isn’t your thing or maybe you’ve already been getting your daily sweat in (good job to you!) then another easy thing to add to your routine is a new hobby.

Maybe it’s time to take out those crochet needles, blow off the dust on that piano, or get to smashing the glass for your stone mosaics.

Whatever it is, getting creative and trying out new things can make the mundane of everyday life seem a bit more manageable and even more enjoyable.

4) Journal and Meditate

With all of your new hobbies and your exciting new routine, it can be easy to try and cover up the things that have been making you worry. Of course, as therapists, we’re not condoning ignoring your feelings…

On the next trip to the store get yourself one of those $1 notebooks. Something that can strictly be used for your thoughts and feelings. Now, this isn’t going to be a notebook that gets slid under the couch and forgotten about. This is a special notebook. Do you know why it’s so special?

Cause you’re actually going to use it.

I want you to write anything you find yourself worrying about, any dreams you have, anything that causes your anxiety to spike or that triggers you.

Writing it all down and getting the thoughts out of your head can help you process what you’re feeling. It can help you work through those feelings to help you understand what’s causing them.

And of course, pairing that journaling with meditation may benefit you more than you know. The amygdala in your brain helps to regulate emotions and deals with emotions around fear. And scientific evidence is now suggesting that meditation helps to calm your amygdala.

This means that your consistent meditation can help give you a sense of peace and control over your fleeting thoughts. And it can also be a way for you to decrease the activity of your amygdala leading to higher levels of relaxation.

This quarantine hasn’t been easy for most of you. Maybe you thought you’d really enjoy all of this time being at home, but it’s actually been way harder than you expected. Maybe this experience has been triggering for you, and you’ve been feeling like you have no control of your life anymore.

I’m hoping these coping mechanisms can help make this pandemic a bit easier, but if you’re still feeling the negative impact of this pandemic and want to explore those feelings together, please reach out to us. We’re ready to start this journey with you.

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for anxiety, depression, or trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!