Mindfulness and the Holiday Season


I went to a physical recently.  I haven’t seen my primary care doctor, whom I love, since I became pregnant and gave birth to my youngest last November.  As I sat in her office I confessed something.  “I am TOTALLY exhausted.  Like down to my bones exhausted.  Do you think I’m anemic?  Do I need more B vitamins?  Is it my thyroid?  I know I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in over a year, but this seems over the top!”

My doctor just paused, and gently reminded me that I am a full time working mother of two children, one who is quite strong willed, and the other who is under a year.  “What are you doing for yourself?” she asked me.

Good question.  We chatted for a while, and I began telling her that I have started teaching mindfulness with my kindergarten class.  Every day after lunch we come back to the classroom.  We sit.  We breathe.  Lights are off and we ignore the sounds around us.  “That’s a start.”  she said.  At least I was taking a moment to stop and breathe each day.

The holiday season is upon us – Thanksgiving has past and we’re officially allowed to declare that we are looking forward to the traditions we hold dear during the month of December.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Being Jewish, we celebrated Thanksgiving as many celebrate Christmas – filled with relatives and friends from far and near, always gathering at either our house on Long Island, or my aunt and uncle’s place outside of Chicago.  Our Thanksgivings had a rhythm to them – Wednesday night was pizza, Thursday the holiday, Friday a trip to a show, and Saturday a museum.  Growing up I looked forward to Thanksgiving all year.

Now that I am grown and have children of my own, the season takes on a whole new meaning.  We still celebrate a much more muted Thanksgiving than before, but for my religiously blended family this means celebrating Hanukkah on my side, lighting the menorah for each of the eight nights and decorating with dreidels and gelt, and Christmas with my husband’s family.  Often we are traveling to the deep south with our kids and all of their stuff.  Though it is a blessing that we do not have to share holidays with each other, taking turns and missing every other year as some families do, it means that we get to experience the joys of the holiday madness.  Twice.

Mindfulness, which is focusing on the present and being in the moment with no judgement on your thoughts or feelings, is a huge buzzword these days.

It is becoming present in many schools.  A lot of research is being done on how practicing mindfulness can build gray matter in the brain.  Practicing mindfulness increases self regulation in children and the ability to handle conflict.  Practicing mindfulness allows for children to be able to find calm in a chaotic world.  Everyday in my classroom we practice our breathing after lunch, which can be the most chaotic time of day for most children.  Have you ever been to an elementary school lunch room?  It’s probably as close to controlled chaos as you can get.
Much like the holiday season.  We rush around, buying gifts, making food, donating time, cleaning our homes, helping others, keeping our children from imploding…and we forget to breathe.

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere – at a red light, standing in line at the grocery store, in the bathroom…

Eyes closed.  Breathe in (pause), breathe out (pause), repeat.  No judgement on the moment.

Just breathe.



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