4 Hacks for Staying Present This Holiday Season

December got you feeling crazy? Check out our holiday hacks for staying present during the most high-energy time of the year.

It’s the holiday season and with that comes chaos, travel, shopping lists, to-do lists, grocery lists, naughty or nice lists, finishing deadlines, sending emails, finishing DIY projects, cleaning the apartment, cleaning the house, cleaning dishes, cleaning the glove compartment, securing reservations, packing and unpacking, deciding what to text your crush on Christmas Eve… You get the picture.

The holidays are known for being as hectic as they are enjoyable. It’s easy to fall victim to the mayhem of merriment—especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. To combat this potential stress, make extra effort to find moments of presence and allow yourself to focus on what’s truly important. Below are our steps for taking a well-earned breather:

Focus on your senses.

One of the best things about the holidays is the incredible wave of treats for the senses. It’s a feast for the eyes, hands, and everything in between. These sensory details are fantastic tools to snap your mind back to the present, as their mere existence is enough to command total focus.

A few things that might spark this connection: a fresh pine tree, the cool scent before snowfall, the gleam in your niece’s eye, Ella Fitzgerald on vinyl, the glow of a candle, your sister’s gingerbread, the deep belly laugh of an elder, crisp brown packing paper, sizzling latkes… The list goes on and on. Allow your body to delight in anything special to the holidays—it’s only so often we get to enjoy these details.

Return to the breath.

It sounds simple because it is. The holidays often come with rapid movement—you’re on a bus, a train, rushing through the airport, navigating a Trader Joe’s parking lot, chasing craft store after craft store for the perfect shade of paint for your homemade ornaments. The breath is a potent tool for presence for several reasons: it’s accessible, it requires no preparation, and it works.

Before you go into the grocery store this season, take a few deep breaths to ground yourself. Do the same before airport security or lunch with your high-energy in-laws. Breathe in the air that surrounds you and feel it expand your back and chest. Allow that rejuvenation to flutter into your toes and fingertips. How does the ground feel beneath you? How does the air feel on your skin? Rekindling a connection to the breath is a sublime conduit for connection to all things around us.


Often times, the holidays mean an influx of family and friends. Listening to others is a powerful tool for tapping into the present moment. Through truly listening (and not letting your mind wander to the pie), we shift our focus outside of ourselves and our needs and instead serve as a witness to the voice of others. Whether it’s a friend, your grandmother, or the barista behind the Starbucks counter, consider asking this person a heartfelt question, even something as simple as “what was the best part of your day?” And then listen thoughtfully when they respond.

Not only does this activity spur presence, but it also makes the person you’re speaking to feel well, to put it bluntly, heard. That in and of itself is a rare gift. Listen, hear their story, and savor that special place of connection.

Let go of control.

Our attempts to gain control typically stem from a yearning to predict an outcome. We are focused on the future rather than the beauty that sits before us. Relinquishing control creates presence. You can enjoy the moment for what it is—rather than attempting to mold and meld it.

Of course, this is often easier said than done (especially for the Type-A yogis out there). Attempt to notice any negative thoughts, desires for control, or the attempt to predict what’s going to happen. Instead, give yourself permission—even audibly speak to yourself, if this feels right—to let go of your need to hold the reigns and welcome the moment. During the holidays, we try to create the perfect meal or execute a Pinterest-worthy party. See how these special moments shift when you let go of the “image” and find gratitude for everything you’ve created, imperfections included.

How will you stay present this holiday season? Tell us in the comments below.

Amanda Kohr is the editor at Wanderlust. You can find her exploring new highways, drinking diner coffee, and on Instagram