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Where is your mind right now? Without judging the findings, chances are you may have been thinking about something in the future or trying to resolve something from the past. 

We are hard-wired to scan for problems and threats. Research shows that we spend about 50% of our waking hours in this state of mind called the default mode network. 

There is another way though and that is with mindfulness; being present to more moments of your day without judgmentas you live them. Is this a day that you can tip the scales and be present more than 50% of the time to what is happening, as it is happening?? You may be surprised with how wonderful it feels to live more of your moments fully.

Angela Mazur

The 3 P’s and how to maneuver holiday stress

Pacing, Pausing and Presence

The build- up to the holiday season begins earlier and earlier each year. We barely have time to enjoy Labor Day before the push for holiday festivities begin! Shelves become filled with every kind of Halloween candy along with all the merchandise for ghosts, goblins and trick or treaters.

Just the word, “holiday”, can conjure up an entire physical, emotional and mental response for many of us!  We Americans can put a lot of weight into what our holidays should be like. We are subjected to a litany of media input that highlights the perfect family enjoying the ideal celebration. Can you picture that perfect scene of members smiling around the dinner table as the head of household is effortlessly carving the turkey?  This is not reality, people. For many folks, holidays are downright painful! Deaths within the family in the past year, failing health, job insecurities, abrupt ending of loving relationships and active additions in families can all add to the mix of feeling derailed by the high pace and expectations of the holiday season.

So to relieve some of the stress and pressure during the holiday season, it is first important to recognize that no celebration matches what we read about in magazines and see advertised on tv. Life is messy and this spills into the holidays as well. If we put less stress on ourselves to have the perfect holiday and enjoy the “being together” as the focus of the celebration, we are much more likely to enjoy the holiday season.

I used to feel tremendous stress before the holidays. That was about twenty years ago when I was buying presents for all our family members. We all smartened up and decided to do cash for the kids and let that be enough! What a relief to remove myself from the frenzy of holiday shopping where I would be competing for sought after parking spaces in the malls while dashing from store to store  as I  agonized what gift to buy each member of the family.

There is a balancing act of figuring out when to visit both my husband’s side of the family along with mine. I no longer will do a holiday marathon where we used to drive from one member’s house to the next on the same day. To be honest, I prefer to stretch out the family gatherings to at least a day or two in between. As much as I love both sides, it can be draining to participate in these big gatherings. 

I also have become known as the “board game family member”. I usually travel to celebrations with some kind of board game to engage all of us. This brings a certain presence for all of us to connect, laugh and enjoy being together. It sure beats having each member zoned out on their technologies or riveted to the TV. 

Pausing is so important during the holidays. My mindfulness practice serves me well. I can be sitting at the large gathering and if I need to, can take a moment to tend to my breath as a way to regroup and refresh. Or perhaps the pause most needed is to step outside, drink in the fresh air and put the day into perspective.

When I think about tips to help navigate holiday stress, what comes to mind is pacing. No matter what additional responsibilities may be on one’s plate during this time of year, chunking it out in manageable pieces is a great way to cut down on some of the stress. 

Self care is another essential component during this time of celebration. Making sure to get some daily exercise along with having healthy food choices at the ready will go a long way in combatting the overwhelming stress many feel during this time.

When we realize that any of the holidays are just another day, this strategy reduces the pressure of needing any holiday to be a certain way. This outlook can be extremely beneficial for those who are faced with celebrating without a family member or perhaps alone for the first time in their lives.