A Holly, Jolly, Wholly Holiday

Mindful Holidays

By Susie Ippolito 

Holiday fatigue — we’re all guilty of it. We start each holiday season with the best of intentions. We promise ourselves to ease up on expectations, to relax and to enjoy family and friends.

We’ll eat well, exercise and participate in holiday fun. But somehow, someway, we end up overwhelmed and exhausted, wondering how the holiday season blew past us so quickly. Staying mindful of our intentions throughout the holiday season isn’t an easy task, so we asked the experts. The good news: in mindfulness, small gestures have huge rewards and all it takes is a bit of practice.

As with anything new, the first step is usually the one we resist the most. Our minds flood with excuses as we successfully talk ourselves out of good choices.

A good first step toward mindfulness is to give yourself permission to explore what makes you feel happy, satisfied and content during the holidays. What traditions do you most value? Which ones do not bring you joy?

Pick a pattern

“Mindfulness is a transformation of the mind, one that is intentional,”said Upstate Yoga Institute instructor, David Jacobs. “It is a commitment to a new pattern.”

It’s a gentle process that takes practice, he explained. Whether you choose to deck the halls to the hilt or just keep things simple, start each day by choosing to live in that intention. This can be an empowering experience, David said; mindful intention creates the awareness that there may be a better way of doing things.

“This leads us to make mindful choices about what is appropriate,” he said.

Staying centered in our intentions can be challenging during the holidays, when the distractions are endless. To stay aligned with our intentions, David suggested asking ourselves: “Am I following my best intention?”

If you are, keep moving toward it. If not, simply take a moment to connect with your breath and make the appropriate adjustments.

Stay healthy

Stress doesn’t limit itself to one part of the body, like a cold, explained Dr. Cathy Berry of Dr. Cathy J. Berry, MD, and Associates.

“Instead, it attacks our whole body,” she said.

Stress can take the form of “headaches, hot flashes, mood swings” and various other physical ailments we often ignore, Cathy said.

“We create a great deal of our own stress during the holidays by expecting too much from ourselves,” she said.

Cathy recommended staying as healthy as possible, which means “sticking to a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and continuing to exercise.” She also advised against overextending ourselves. Staying tied to your intention will be helpful when social obligations start to overtake personal time or when the budget begins to bend.

Treat yourself

Winter break should be mandatory for everyone.

“It’s a natural time to pause, to reflect and to gently ready yourself for the year ahead,” said Melissa O’Mara, founder of The Leader’s Co-Lab.

Melissa is an expert on mindful leadership and healthy, conscious work practices. She advised us to make the most of the year’s final week.

“Schedule as much time off as you can afford — even if it’s a half-day,” she said.

Plan a date with yourself and use that time to connect with yourself. Melissa suggested asking: “What is the gift you want to give yourself?” Perhaps it’s a spa day. Maybe it’s a day of blissful binge watching. Maybe it’s a good book and a glass of wine. Whatever it is, take time for yourself and do things that make your heart happy for one day. You may enjoy it so much that you remember to do it more often.

The mind-body connection is a powerful tool we can all use to connect with calm and allow in more happiness. Try any or all of these suggestions to help you experience the holiday season in the way that will bring you the most joy.

A Couple More Mindful Tips

O Yoga founder Tiffany Cagwin offered some advice to address the physical aspect of holiday stress.

“Our minds get tangled up with the expectations of the season,” Tiffany said, “and we find our bodies in a much greater state of motion and physical stress during these months.”

Tiffany’s tips:

Start and end your day with meditation. Allow yourself a few moments every day to stop and breathe.
• Turn your attention inward and let your mind rest.
• Don’t fight your thoughts; let them happen.
• Bring attention to each thought and then let the thought slide by.
• After three to five minutes of quiet pause, take in the calming effect you’ve allowed for your mind and body.

Prepare your body. If you’re looking forward to a day of hauling bags and moving merchandise, take a few minutes to do some forward folds, both seated and standing, to help awaken the back side of your body.
• Slowly rise to stand, with your arms extended overhead, reaching as far to the ceiling as you can.
• Feel your feet ground into the floor and your side body expand.
• Stay here for a few rounds of breath.
• Slowly fold back to the floor and release the tension in your back-side body.


Dr. Cathy J. Berry, MD, and Associates’ Centering Pregnancy pre-natal care program provides mindful education and support for moms-to-be. Cathy J Berry MD and Associates’ Syracuse office is located at 101 Pine St. The Baldwinsville office is located at 8280 Willett Parkway Suite 201. For more information, visit cathyjberrymd.com or call 315-422-8105 (Syracuse office) or 315-638-0263 (Baldwinsville office).

Upstate Yoga Institute offers donation-based classes throughout the month of December to benefit the Center for New Americans. Suggested donation range is $5 to $20. Upstate Yoga Institute is located at 6843 E. Genesee St. in Fayetteville. For more information, visit upstateyogainstitute.com or call 315-445-4894.

O Yoga plans to hold its Beginner I Workshop series in January. Those new to the practice can also take advantage of New Student Special pricing. Or, kick off the new year with intent at O Yoga’s special New Year’s Day class, Awaken: A Special New Year’s Day Yoga Practice. O Yoga’s new Syracuse studio is located at 225 Wilkinson St. The Fayetteville DeWitt studio is located at 4465 E. Genesee St. For more information, visit theoyogastudio.com or call 315-314-7754 (Syracuse studio) or 315-314-7915 (DeWitt office).

Check out The Leader’s Co-Lab website to learn more about how mindful awareness can build successful teams and create healthy work environments. Sign up for Melissa’s monthly newsletter, and get a free paper about how leaders can tap into their head, heart and gut intelligence at work. For more information on The Leaders Co-Lab, visit theleaderscolab.com, email [email protected] or call 315-427-0263.

To read more from writer Susie Ippolito, visit susieippolito.com. SWM