November 25, 2021

How to Be Mindful During the Holidays

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Marissa Jarrett, onsite well-being coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss how maintain your mindfulness during the holiday season.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

    • How we can taper expectations during the holidays.
    • The benefits of creating an action plan.
    • Small things we can do to be more mindful and present.
    • How mindfulness impacts our mental health.

For more info on the Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being webinars, click here.

Check out Marissa’s Snowy Yak Meditation that she mentions in this episode.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast Episode 94. Coming up, we discussed the importance and benefits of mindfulness, especially around the holidays.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast that’s dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and wellbeing through small healthy habits, we can start implementing right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we’ll sit down with a certified expert to discuss topics, covering nutrition, fitness, and a whole lot more and we’re going to do it mindfully today. On this episode, we’re diving deeper into mindfulness in how it’s both important and beneficial to practice around the holidays. With me today as a wellbeing coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Marissa Jarrett. Marissa good to have you with us.

Marissa Jarrett:
Thank you, Chuck. I’m happy to be here.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, we’re happy you’re here and you know, you’ve got a long history in dealing with health and wellness in the industry and this idea of helping us navigate this space of not just all the stuff, you’re an expert at personal training and group fitness, but also getting into mindfulness, being present in the moment. And we kind of think of, I guess I do, the holidays is this happy, jolly time, right? And yet, for some, while it’s filled with joy excitement, it can also be very stressful, right?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, of course. The holidays bring with them so many challenges for people in so many different ways that sometimes we want to get involved in all the happiness and joy, but sometimes that stress just kind of brings us down a notch and we really can’t experience it to its full extent.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, when you talk to others, when you think of you and your own family’s life, what are the stressors you’re talking about? Because I bet for some, they’re saying, “Well, what’s the stress? I love it. It’s great. It’s the food, the smells, the people, the family.” What are you hearing? I guess, anecdotally, what are you seeing and what are you hear? What are those stressors we should be looking out for?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, I think it’s expectations, Chuck, we have all of this expectation that everything has to be perfect. Right? We have to serve the perfect meal. We have to have the perfect wrapping and the perfect bow. Right? And sometimes that’s not always possible.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And here we are, this episode is dropping, one month to the day before Christmas day. And there’s so much gift giving going on and you know, we’re also hearing of a new stressor. Maybe we haven’t all thought about until this year and maybe last year, which is the supply chain. I’ve to let my kids know, we’ve got five kids, Marissa, I have to let them know shop early for my stuff. My little list, make sure you get to it early. Yeah.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah. Right. Chances are it’s not going to be sitting there on the shelves or hanging on the rack in the store with everything going on but you know what, maybe this holiday season, it’s not about the gift. Maybe this holiday season, it’s slow down and spending time with your loved ones and sharing memories with one another and finding out what you can do for them, is there something that you can help them do? Maybe it’s helping your son or daughter, your mother or father prepare the holiday meal or do the shopping for them or do the wrapping of presents, or maybe it’s just sharing gratitude with your family and friends.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I agree with you and you know, we’re just coming past Thanksgiving and my wife and I both had COVID a year ago right now during the week of Thanksgiving. So for us, these are very important holidays. It’s not about the gifting, it’s about the fact that we’re healthy and we can actually gather with our kids, we had to wave off the whole thing last year. So for us you’re right. The importance of the important people in our lives is going to surpass everything this year.

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, for sure. That’s an excellent point, though that the holidays looked very different.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Can we be benefit from creating an action plan? Are you a fan of that? I don’t mean a journal, but I guess, what is it that we’re putting in our phones or otherwise where we can actually create a plan to de-stress us?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, I think an action plan is probably a really good thing to have, any plan, whether it’s the holidays or even for work and anything that you’re doing during the year, it just helps you from becoming overwhelmed and especially during the holidays, Chuck, when we’re so busy doing so many other things and that action plan is going to look very different for everyone and it’s going to be based on their situation, but having it may help you stay on track during the holiday season. A lot of people think that they have to have everything and that can be so stressful. You mentioned journaling, yeah, you’re not thinking in terms of journaling but you do want to ask yourself some questions, right? What do you need to feel fulfilled over the holiday season? Is it your family? Is it your friends? Recognizing what challenges that you might have to face and how you might handle them, asking yourself what is a one thing that you really want to do this holiday season?

Marissa Jarrett:
A lot of us we’ve grown up with all of these holiday traditions and routines, but maybe that’s not what works for you now. So is there something new or maybe there’s just like one or two of your family traditions you had when you were a child that you really want to do this year, maybe there’s some other ones that you don’t need to do them all. So find the ones that matter to you and plan on doing those and then remembering to take care of yourself. During your action plan, you want to make sure that you’re carving out time to take care of yourself, right? Spending time in the morning, planning your day, doing some reflection, making a list of what needs to get done, have an action plan for how you’re going to manage stressful situations and then have a backup plan if things don’t go according to plan, how are you going to handle that. So just anticipating an action plan helps you anticipate things that might come up during the holidays and then allows you to plan for them accordingly.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you’ll find this interesting I hope because my wife and I are similar in that. We’re kind of structured, but she wants everything in her phone. Like I schedule, I’ve got a podcast to record with you today. So it’s a joy. I’ve got that as a major thing in my calendar, on my phone. For her, she may have eight things within almost the same timeframe. And she likes to go back and check each one and I asked her the other night, I said, “Why, if you’ve done it and it’s already in the rear view mirror, why are you putting a check mark?” And her answer was really interesting to me. She said, “It’s a sense of accomplishment. I can take a deep breath and say, look at all the check marks I’m done. I didn’t miss one.” And I thought, wow, I don’t really think that way but for her it works. It’s her system.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yep. It works for a lot of people, Chuck, there’s a sense of accomplishment, just like she said, when you’d get to check off things that you put it on your to-do list but during the holidays focus on the ones that are really going to bring you joy, right? There are family and there are friends who matter to you more than maybe some others. So spend time with them during the holiday season. Other distant family members or distant friends, they’ll understand that, you can meet up with them after the holidays. I think we just really, if we put some time into being mindful, slowing down, taking those breaths and focusing on what’s important to us now, what matters now? I mean, if you really want to have the perfect holiday, slow down and notice your blessings, like you said, your holidays this year are going to look very different then they were last year. So count that as a blessing that you get to be with your family and friends.

Chuck Gaidica:
Are you a fan of putting away your devices? So this idea being present with me in the moment, you’re really here and you’re not distracted by ding, ding, ding.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yes, absolutely. Put your devices away, right. And really connect with your family over a good meal or sitting by an open fire and having open conversations, looking them in the eye, paying attention to their body language. If you have your face in your phone, you’re not being receptive to them. You’re not paying attention to them. You’re not going to see if they smiled or you’re not going to notice how they’re holding their hands if they’re nervous, but if your devices are away, you’re not being bombarded by all of those alerts and text messages and you’re just, you’re really being present with whoever it is you have sitting across from you or even during your family meals.

Chuck Gaidica:
You know, it’s interesting that you point out this idea of sitting by a fire. It was just a couple years ago, our youngest daughter is in her mid twenties. And I remember Susan and I, looking at each other, it was over the holidays, probably over Christmas and all the kids were going to bed and going back to their homes and we thought, as we looked at each other, we said, “Did you ever think you’d be sitting by a fire with all of your adult children and whether they had a glass of wine or a glass of water was academic and just talking” And we thought it’s a new season for us and it was delightful. It was just a high point of the holidays.

Marissa Jarrett:
That is nice and maybe that’s what it’s about too, creating new traditions with your family. You know, especially as our children are growing up and becoming adults and maybe starting their own families, it’s reassuring to know that you can create new traditions that are going to matter and maybe it’ll be something that they will continue later on down the line.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. I agree with you. And I think we’ve come through, we’re still coming through it obviously, but we’ve come through this season where, what was tradition, handshakes, hugs, kisses, turned into fist bumps at best. So I’m with you. I think it’s just good we start to get, at least meander back, to the stuff we knew and we feel, we get the warm and fuzzy about, right.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, when we slow down and we get to savor those moments with our family and with our children, it makes the season even more special for us. Right? And when we can focus on them and the time that we have with them, it just really helps keep us from feeling overwhelmed.

Chuck Gaidica:
And now do us all a favor and talk about your online resources, because I know you’ve got, do you call them classes? What do you call them online that can help us with mindfulness and being present and in the moment?

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah. So every Wednesday I launch a live meditation. They range in time from maybe two minutes to 15 minutes, they’re all based in different locations and they’re free to everybody, so you don’t have to be a Blue’s member and they’re all stored on demand, so if you can’t register for one and attended on Wednesdays at noon, you can always go on landing page at bluecrossvirtualwellbeing.com and find them all on demand. And you’ll find many different techniques. You’ll find mindfulness meditations that focus on different breathing techniques, box breathing, you’ll find visualization, meditations, meditations on gratitude and gratitude is something so wonderful to have during the holidays. It helps us just become more compassionate as an individual when we practice gratitude. So these meditations are there and you can access them at any time. There’s tapping meditations. One of Cindy’s favorites is the snowy Yak meditation that I did last winter with snow falling on the Yaks.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh is that funny.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah, that’s her favorite one. The meditations, like I said, they’re all over, they feature nature, scenes, water scenes, animals from our farm, corn fields, lots of nature, because I love being out in nature. Nature is good for our wellbeing. So a lot of the meditations that I do are all based somewhere out in nature. So there’s a little bit of everything out there.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, that’s really cool. And the idea of getting out, even in the winter when that snow is falling gently, whether it’s a Yak or Bigfoot, I guess it’s academic, right? But really, that’s why we watch the ReindeerCam and that’s why we go out outside without devices in our ears, so we can hear the birds and it can really add a different dimension to the mindfulness experience.

Marissa Jarrett:
Absolutely. And you know, being outside during the winter, Chuck, is very different then being outside in the summer, especially after the snow has fallen and it just blankets the earth. There’s a quiet, that’s very different then the quiet you might experience in the spring or summer months. And it truly is a wonderful experience to just get outside, dress for the occasion, layer up and just find some place that you can sit and listen to the silence or listen to any birds that might be in the area, watch the snow falling. If it happens to be a day that the snow is falling from the sky and look up at the clouds, there’s just so much to be grateful for. And there’s just so much to notice out in nature if you slow down and take the time to observe it, feel it, hear it, notice it.

Chuck Gaidica:
I think those are great points. And it’s hard when you’re driving, you know, it’s hard. There was a movement in America several years ago, I think it was called look up, we don’t look up enough at the clouds and then they turn into funny videos online, “Hey, that one looks like Mickey mouse.” But whatever it is, it’s hard to do that when you’re driving, you can’t really, you shouldn’t be looking up and outside all the time. So when you’re out for these walks, what a perfect time to engage whether it’s deer tracks in the snow or the shape of the clouds. I’m with you.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah. Absolutely. There’s beauty to be found anywhere, but yeah, don’t look up while you’re driving.

Chuck Gaidica:
Did you want to double back on gratitude? Is that where you had a moment where you said, I want to come back to that?

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah, thank you. Oh, one of the things I’d like to just suggest when you’re sitting with family and friends this year, we always talk about gratitude, right? Don’t go to bed without writing down a couple things that you’re grateful for, start your day with a grateful intention, but something that I’ve heard and I want to put into practice myself is, you know, we always say, “Think of somebody that you’re grateful for.” Right? Well, maybe this year, instead of a gift, instead of trying to find that perfect gift for somebody just because maybe the best gift is writing a gratitude letter about somebody in your family that you’re grateful for and then after you’ve written it, read it to them, don’t just give it to them, but read it to them. Read it to them during dinner or if it’s a long distant relative or friend do it over zoom or face time or whatever you need to.

Marissa Jarrett:
But I just heard that. I just thought that was just a wonderful way to share an experience with a loved one. We get caught up in the whole commercial aspect of the holidays and trying to find that perfect present for somebody and that’s another thing too, causes a lot of stress, right? We feel like we have to spend all of this money. So set a budget for yourself, know what you’re going to spend, whether it’s on gifts for friends and family, and even on your budget for food, know how much you’re going to spend, stick to it, don’t go above it, that’s going to help keep your stress levels down.

Marissa Jarrett:
Be a little bit more mindful where you shop, right? So maybe go shop locally at a little unique boutique, as opposed to the big buck stores or make something or give something that’s handmade. If you haven’t made it, support somebody local, but putting a little bit more feeling behind your gift giving I think is something really nice and you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money. And then after the holidays come, “Well, oh my gosh, it was stressful enough going into the holidays.” Now you’re getting all your bills for what you spent. And now you’ve just kind of created that whole cycle over again.

Chuck Gaidica:
Now that’s great advice. And you’re talking about writing a letter and then reading it, I’m already kind of tearing up thinking about who I could read it to. And I suspect that those kind of moments become the precious ones that are a gift, as you’re suggesting a gift all by themselves.

Marissa Jarrett:
Absolutely. And maybe a new tradition that you’re carving out for your family or for the holidays. And it doesn’t just have to be the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it could be birthdays and anniversaries as well.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you’ll find this interesting, my watch just told me I should breathe of all times in my day, while I’m talking to you, Marissa, my watch told me it’s time to breathe. I don’t have time right now.

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, no, you do. You do. In fact, I’ll do it with you, Chuck. Let’s just take a breath right now.

Chuck Gaidica:
You want to? Okay, Let’s do it.

Marissa Jarrett:
Okay. Ready? Take a deep breath in and then exhale. See, it’s just that simple.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. I could just duck in somewhere and just do that and that’s going to be good for me.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah, just take a breath. One breath, three breaths, 10 breaths, when you’re feeling stressed, just getting in that oxygen and I always kind of think, breathing in peace and positivity and letting go of negativity. Or breathing in peace and exhaling joy and passing it on to other people, we need more joy in the world.

Chuck Gaidica:
And tell us, I guess not to get too clinical, but when we talk about all that we’ve talked about and it’s so much good stuff, if we use mindfulness as the broad term for all of it, what is it that it actually is doing to affect our mental health? What are the outcomes we’re actually able to point to and say, “This is why it helps us. We should do it.”

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, there are, a lot of studies that show that mindfulness and meditation can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression and it has a lot of positive side effects, right? It improves our memory, our focus, our cognition, it helps improve relationships, it helps with compassion, it helps make us a little bit more empathetic to other people and we just have an overall better quality of life, but you just have to take time to do and mindfulness, you can do it anywhere. It’s just being aware of what’s happening to you right now in the moment, paying attention to any sensations that are happening in the body. And during the holidays, your body’s going to tell you when you’re stressed, right. You’re going to have muscle tension, you might have trouble sleeping, so if you recognize that, take a moment and just be aware of what’s going on around you, take a couple breaths.

Marissa Jarrett:
Meditation is a little bit more, you’re taking time, you’re specifically setting aside time to be mindful and to focus on something, whether it’s an object or your breath, but mindfulness can be weaved into your day. Just like your watch reminds you, “Chuck, it’s time to take a breath, take a breath.” Whether it’s one breath, three breaths, sitting for a minute saying, “Hey, it’s a noon on a Wednesday.” Or “I’m going to go check out one of those wellbeing meditations that Marissa does. I just need a few moments to just sit quietly or go outside and just spend a few minutes in nature looking at the clouds, paying attention to what’s going on around you.”

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I talked to a friend of mine not too long ago, and it was, I think this was pre COVID. So, people are coming back to offices and things are changing, but they used to tell me, they’d have to go from meeting to meeting, to meeting, up and down a hall. And they said, literally they figured out a way, it was a hack in their mind, to step into the janitor’s closet, to open the door and just duck in and they said, “I would just breathe for like 30 seconds and I’d pop out with my notepads and my stuff and I would turn left and keep it going to the next meeting.” And they said that little thing that I did multiple times a day, some days was the one thing that was impactful in how they felt their meetings went. I thought, wow, what a great idea.

Marissa Jarrett:
Absolutely. Yeah. We encourage everybody during our Tuesday and Thursday webinars that Cindy and I do, this is how you should start off your meetings. You take a breath because you don’t know where everybody’s coming from. Right? What kind of day they just had and now you’re all called into a meeting and you want to get everybody on the same page. So starting it off with a 30 second or 60 second moment to just focus on your breath and then you can all collectively come together and start your meeting. They say you’re more creative after you’ve spent some time in mindful meditation. So, it would seem appropriate to do it before any big meeting, even before tests and things like that with your improved focus and memory and concentration. So definitely don’t have anything to lose by taking a few minutes to breathe, whether it’s in the janitor’s closet or even if you’re at home and your children are getting on your nerves, go sit out in your car in the garage for a few minutes. Right? Or lock yourself in the linen closet.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, we’ve got some fun suggestions in this episode. We’ve got snow on Yaks. Thank you for that.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
And we’ve got ducking into the janitor’s closet to make yourself better for the day. So there you go. Who said we can’t give you an idea to take away from the show?

Marissa Jarrett:
That’s right. But yeah, I think if you really want to embrace the joy of the season, just make time throughout the day to be mindful of what you’re doing. Even when you’re sitting down to eat a meal, you can be mindful about what you’re eating, think about what you’re eating, pay attention to the sounds, the texture and the flavors. I think we just need to slow down and live in the moment and accept what is.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I think that’s great advice and I’m going to try to practice everything you talked about today because all the extensions of healthfulness and wellness are all right there. Even now, you just said slow down when you’re eating, well, there’s science that says when you do that, you probably will get fuller, faster. You’ll feel full. You’re going to be able to get away from the table and maybe that diet or the lifestyle change, I think as it’s now called, maybe that’ll work a little better. So there are all these off ramps toward healthfulness and wellness that I think are awesome.

Marissa Jarrett:
Absolutely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Anything else you want to leave of us with as we wrap things up today, Marissa?

Marissa Jarrett:
You know, I think practice self compassion, practice, gratitude, be aware of what you can control and can’t control and be willing to let go of those things that you can’t control and enjoy the season, enjoy the holidays, be with your family and friends, be present. It’s not about giving it’s about being present.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s awesome. And I didn’t really tell everybody at least in the setup, but I know we’ve spoken before, when you talk about watching the snowfall on the Yaks, these are Yaks that are on your farm, right? Along with other animals, these are yours.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yah. The Yaks that are on my farm.

Chuck Gaidica:
Wow. All right. Well listen, you have a beautiful rest of the holiday season and thanks for all the great stuff. And we’ll put in the show notes where people can go online and find those great videos that you release every Wednesday because I think those can be helpful for all of us from the holidays and beyond into the new year too, huh?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, absolutely. They’re available on demand. You can watch them time and there’s quite a library, full from past weeks.

Chuck Gaidica:
All right. Marissa Jarrett who’s the wellbeing coordinator are at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Happy holidays to you and your family and thanks for your time today. Great to talk to you again.

Marissa Jarrett:
Thank you for having me on, Chuck. I appreciate it. Happy holidays to you and your family as well.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Thanks so much.

Chuck Gaidica:
Hey, if you like this show, we want you to make sure you’re getting all the episodes that again, we will place in the show notes where you can find those episodes, that Marissa was speaking about the videos, we want to thank you for listening to this, A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It is brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. And if you like the show, you want to know more, you can check us out online at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave us a review or a rating on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. You can get new, old episodes and all the rest on your smartphone, your tablet, whatever it is and be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica, be well.