Three Mindfulness Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Don’t let travel or family drive you nuts this holiday season—with a little help from these mindfulness practices.

Everyone’s always thrilled for the holidays. But what no one ever talks about is the “joy” of holiday travel. Holiday travel has a way of bringing out the worst in us. It’s bad enough that we’re dealing with crowds, security lines, flight delays, cramped seating on airplanes and (God forbid) other people’s crying children. But it can feel even more overwhelming if we know that family drama may be waiting for us in the baggage area (pun intended).

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, here are three tips to take the edge off of both travel and family dynamics and avoid slapping family or fellow travelers.

TIP 1: Recognize your triggers

According to neurobiologist R. Douglas Fields, there are nine triggers that really push our buttons. You might hit a lot of them during the holidays. When it comes to travel, that could be running late, long lines or loud kids. When it comes to family that could be snarky comments from siblings, or drunk Uncle Billy making offensive comments. Reflect on what sets you off. Then, when it occurs (and you know it will), plan to laugh about it instead of taking it personally. The act of planning a mindful reaction can change your normal (mindless) reaction, and result in much more pleasant experiences.


Most of us lead with our emotional brain. We’re wired to fight or run at the first sign of trouble. Instead, try practicing a technique called SBNRR (Stop-Breathe-Notice-Reflect-Respond) before taking the bait. For example, when the flight attendant snaps at you because he/she is having a bad day, you could snap right back and no one wins. Or you could use SNBRR to engage your thinking brain and respond with kindness. Often times, you’ll find that the cause for conflict doesn’t even relate to you, let alone require you to join the battle.

TIP 3: Practice mindfulness to reduce self-inflicted stress

With the pace of modern living, it’s easy to run from one thing to another. The problem is that this causes us to make mistakes—lots of them. Going to the wrong gate. Leaving your iPad in the seat pocket. Writing the wrong address down. And that can cause the stress domino effect. Which can trigger “Whose fault is this?” syndrome. Which can contribute to the “I want to slap someone” fantasy. Instead of playing the hurry-up-and-wait game, take a few deep breaths before you transition from one thing to the next. Think about what you are doing, writing and putting away. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to move on?” (again, triggering that thinking brain) and enjoy the travel benefits of getting it right the first time.

These tips will help you maintain control of your own emotions (you can’t control other people’s—unfortunately there’s no app for that yet) and be prepared to enjoy both travel and family a bit more. Take back the joy of the holiday season—even the grueling holiday travel.

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