For people celebrating holidays this time of year with time away from work, this is the perfect moment to mindfully reflect on the year behind us and anticipate the year ahead.
But between seasonal jobs, end-of-semester exams, making time for family and friends, gift shopping, and holiday travel, many of us have trouble making time for rest and reflection amid our responsibilities during this season, even while we’re technically on vacation. Not only is this a stressful time, but over half of American workers don’t use their full amount of paid vacation days during a given year! We need a break this time of year.
Mindfulness offers us tools for truly resting over the holidays, and helps us strengthen our mental resilience for the challenges and joys in the year ahead. Using our time off from work to practice mindfulness can help us return to our jobs with a more energizing and peaceful mindset.
Here are four mindfulness practices from Calm you can try out over your holiday break, and how to bring those practices into your new year at work and beyond.
Calm anxiety about work
There’s a reason that we all call the feeling of dread and unease before our work week the “Sunday scaries” — moving from a time of rest back into “work mode” can be jarring. And sometimes that dread hovers over our rest days, too, as we watch unread emails or requests for shift coverage pile up in our inboxes while we try to relax.
Many of us are also using this time of year to reflect on our careers and where we want to go next. You might be interviewing for new roles, or planning to ask for a raise. These normal parts of our work lives can bring a lot of anxiety and even fear about our material conditions — which is why bringing mindfulness to work anxiety can be so powerful for our overall mental well-being.
Try this mindfulness practice for alleviating anxiety
Returning to work after a break is normally challenging, but it’s especially challenging as we face new concerns about our well-being during this pandemic. Calm your mind and honor difficult emotions in A Mindful Return, a meditation series on finding your way forward from the pandemic taught by Jack Kornfield, author and Buddhist teacher. (You may also find this article on The Art of Rekindling Your Work Motivation useful, too.)
Build more mindfulness around work anxiety in the coming year
This new year is a new chance to start fresh at work. Bringing mindfulness practices to work with you can help you move through your workday with more perspective and less anxiety:
- For your first full week back at work in the new year, introduce new mindsets into your workday by practicing 7 Days of Calming Anxiety before you go to work. You’ll gain new perspectives into your relationship with anxiety, along with new tools for finding peace amid the waves.
- You may also find the mental tools in this meditation on Work Stress useful as you ramp back up to full speed in the new year.
- If your work anxiety is tied to an important meeting or job interview, try this Before a Meeting meditation to settle your thoughts and boost your confidence beforehand — and make sure the place you’re interviewing with is a mentally healthy place to work.
Soothe back pain
A lot of us carry our work stress in our backs. Whether you’re a nurse on night shift, working retail during the busy holidays, or hunched over a laptop in your kitchen, our backs do a lot of work to hold us up during our workday.
Chronic back pain can affect many areas of your life, too. According to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, adults with back pain report feeling difficult emotions like sadness or hopelessness in significantly higher amounts than adults without back pain. Plus, it’s the leading cause of work limitations among adults. Back pain is a serious issue that affects your ability to work well, so relieving that pain as much as possible can impact other areas of your life positively, too.
Take some time this holiday season to say “thank you” to your back for all of the heavy lifting it does by introducing some light movement that will help relieve some of the tension and tightness you may feel.
Try this back pain mindfulness practice
Use a few minutes this season to stretch and soothe your back with a Calm Body session focused on back care. For this session, all you need is a comfortable place to lie down, like a soft carpet or yoga mat. In just a few minutes, you’ll be able to loosen up some of the tension your body is holding in your back, and relax into your holiday a bit more deeply.
If movement on the floor is inaccessible to you, you might find the back stretches in this seated Afternoon Reset chair exercise more accessible.
Build more mindfulness into your pain management in the coming year
Managing long-term pain can be a frustrating challenge. Mindfulness can serve as one tool in your pain management toolbox for bringing some ease and perspective to your experience. Try using guided meditations on 7 Days of Soothing Pain or Untangling Physical Pain to bring yourself some more relief.
If you experience chronic back pain and aren’t currently getting medical support for that pain, make sure to talk to your doctor about a more robust management plan to get the help you need.
Take a mindful nap
For busy working people, especially in the US, taking a break during the day for a nap can feel like a special treat you’re only supposed to enjoy over vacation or when you’re recovering from an illness. But you don’t have to be sneezy or on a holiday to “earn” a nap — because a short nap at the right time of the day can boost your alertness and help you through the rest of your day. Sleep seriously affects your workday.
Other than helping you feel less sleepy, napping has many other benefits: According to the Sleep Foundation, napping can help you improve learning, aid in memory formation, and even help you regulate your emotions.
Practice mindfully napping this holiday season to recover from overwork and exhaustion, then bring your practice into the coming year to reprioritize sleep and get more rest.
The Mayo Clinic recommends napping for 10-20 minutes before 3 p.m. to avoid grogginess or any interference with your sleep schedule, plus a small buffer of time after your nap to ease back into your day to avoid disorientation.
Try this napping mindfulness practice
Use Calm’s special guided Sleep meditations specifically designed for napping like a pro. These 30-minute nap sessions lull you into a light sleep, help you sleep for about 20 minutes, then gently wake you back up so you can feel re-energized and focused for the rest of your day. Try this Refreshing Nap session to get started.
Build more mindfulness into your sleep in the coming year
If your body craves daily naps, it’s possible that you also might need to get a better night’s sleep, too. If using your lunch break to nap isn’t an option, or if you want to build better sleep habits over all, here are two fresh starting points for you to reclaim your rest next year:
- If you struggle with falling asleep, use a Sleep Story to quiet your thoughts and relax into sleep — try Wonder, read by Matthew McConaughey, or King of the Sleeping City, narrated by LeBron James.
- If restlessness wakes you up in the middle of the night, listen to this calming meditation on falling Softly Back to Sleep to ease yourself back into sleep.
Reflect on your year with gratitude
Taking some time at the end of a busy, eventful year to reflect on what we’re grateful for doesn’t always come naturally. That’s why we use the word “practice” when we talk about mindfulness. When we “practice” gratitude, we can build a habit of stepping back from our family, friendships, career, and inner life to look at our lives from a fresh perspective, and enter the new year with renewed purpose.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t fix negative emotions or erase difficult experiences from the past year. Instead, gratitude is a useful lens that can help us tap into what’s going right, even when it feels difficult. Consistently practicing gratitude can also improve your feelings of overall happiness.
Try this gratitude mindfulness practice
Listen to the Gratitude Masterclass taught by Calm’s Head of Mindfulness, Tamara Levitt, to learn more about the psychology of gratitude, how to navigate negativity, and how to find a gratitude practice that works for you. Then, use the accompanying Gratitude Toolkit to put what you’ve learned to work.
Deepen your year-end reflection with meditations on grief, closure, and change
No one’s year has been exactly the same. For you, this may have been a year full of exciting milestones and meaningful moments, or it may have been colored by loss, physical and mental health challenges, or stress over finances and family needs. Most likely, your year has been a mix of both challenging and rewarding experiences.
Here’s an assortment of meditations that may help you reflect on the year behind you as you step into the year ahead:
- Give yourself space to process change in your relationships or friendships with meditations on Closure or Endings.
- Release resentment and invite in peace with this meditation on forgiveness of self and others — which might be especially helpful if your career has been impacted by difficult working relationships this year.
- Lastly, if you’ve experienced loss this year, consider reflecting on the emotions that may arise with a comforting meditation on grief.
Build more mindfulness through gratitude in the coming year
Take a practice of gratitude into your new year with one easy step: Set a reminder to reflect on three things you’re grateful for each day using Calm’s in-app Gratitude Check-In. You can schedule the reminder to ping you at a good time of day, like an afternoon lull or right before bed. Simply jotting down things you’re thankful for can bring peace, energy, and closure into your workday and personal life.
Bring Calm back to work with you
Want to access all of the mindfulness content above, but don’t have a Calm Premium membership? You and your colleagues can enjoy a free Calm membership when your company brings Calm for Business to your organization. For teams of 100 or less, your HR and benefits team can enroll your company immediately here. For larger organizations, encourage your leadership team to sign up for a demo here so everyone on your team can bring more mindfulness to their workday.