Try for freeTry for free

How to actually look forward to holiday traffic, gift buying, and office parties

Susan J. T.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can feel like an epic sprint to the finish line, with holiday parties, office gift exchanges and out-of-town guests adding extra hurdles to an already stressful season. In the midst of this peppermint-infused chaos, who has time to meditate?

You do! If you press pause on your meditation habit pre-holidays by rationalizing that you’ll pick it up again in the new year when your holiday guests have cleared out, the decorations are packed away and things have calmed down, you might find it harder than you thought to pick back up after a break. Plus, you’re missing out on a chance to turn the mayhem into mindful moments.   Here’s how to inject some mindfulness into otherwise chaotic situations.

Try for free

In this article

  • Shopping in a crowded mall
  • Wrapping presents
  • Braving traffic to the airport
  • Hosting a holiday party

Shopping in a crowded mall

You have a mile-long gift list and need to stop at Toys R Us for your niece, Macy’s for your mom and Barnes & Noble for your roommate, but last-minute shoppers crowd the escalators and holiday tunes blast from every corner of the food court. Take a beat to soak in the sounds, smells and sights of the season. Long checkout lines may seem an annoyance, but try to reframe them as a chance to take a breath and consider your purchases before you plunk down the plastic. To avoid holiday-related debt, spend mindfully by thinking through purchases and consider carrying cash instead of credit cards so you won’t be tempted to over-spend. If the mall is just too frenzied for your taste, consider giving experiences you can enjoy together rather than more things. Take your niece to the zoo (bonus: her parents will thank you too!), offer to make a nice homemade meal for mom or treat your roommate to that play she’s been wanting to see. Research shows that experiential purchases bring more joy than materialistic ones anyway. You can always give the gift of meditation.

Wrapping presents

Call me crazy but I really love wrapping gifts, especially making beautiful bows or finding creative ways to wrap unusual shapes. I’ve even volunteered to wrap holiday presents for charity (mall shoppers brought us their gifts and we’d wrap them in exchange for donations). To avoid a last-minute scramble, try to give yourself enough time so you won’t feel rushed. Then sit down and think about each recipient as you wrap their gift. The repetitive motion of folding in the corners and applying bits of tape can almost feel meditative in itself. Or if you’ve opted for experiential gifts rather materialistic ones, you can skip the wrapping altogether.

feature_11-15_holidayparty (WP)

Braving traffic to the airport

Driving to the airport the week of Thanksgiving is no picnic! In Andy’s post about applying mindfulness to driving, he recommends sitting in the car for a minute or two before you start the engine to become aware of how you’re feeling. It wouldn’t be safe to meditate while driving, but often when I have to drive across town, I like to leave at least 15 minutes early and use the extra time to meditate in the car once I arrive.

Hosting a holiday party

Throwing a holiday party can be fun but stressful. Apartment Therapy suggests letting go of the desire to throw a picture-perfect party with the perfect buffet spread and the perfect house and instead focusing on conversation and celebration with the people you care about. Realistically, they’re probably more excited about seeing you than judging your cat-hair-covered couch or secondhand place settings anyway. Take a few moments before guests start arriving to focus on your breath and note how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to step from the kitchen to take a breather during the party when you need. You can always delegate someone else to check on the pecan pie or play bartender while you’re collecting yourself. If all else fails, remember this: January 1 will be here before you know it.

Try for free
Start your day w/ Smile Sun
Start your day w/ Smile Sun

Be kind to your mind

  • Access the full library of 500+ meditations on everything from stress, to resilience, to compassion
  • Put your mind to bed with sleep sounds, music, and wind-down exercises
  • Make mindfulness a part of your daily routine with tension-releasing workouts, relaxing yoga, Focus music playlists, and more

Annual - billed at $69.99 USD/yr

14 days free

$5.83 USD/month

Best value


7 days free

$12.99 USD/month

Start your free trial
Start your day w/ Smile Sun

Similar articles

Mindfulness - 5 mindful holiday self-care tips

Give and take—taking care of yourself during the holidays

Meditation and mindfulness for any mind, any mood, any goal

visual-dotcom homepage editorial hero desktop-general-202001008-kh
visual-dotcom homepage editorial hero desktop-general-202001008-kh


  • What is meditation
  • Meditation for beginners
  • Benefits of meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Meditation techniques
See more

Get some Headspace

  • Send a gift
  • Redeem a code
  • Student Plan
  • All articles
  • Subscribe
  • Headspace for Work
  • Admin portal login
  • Engineering blog

About Us


My Headspace

    • Terms & conditions
    • Privacy policy
    • Consumer Health Data
    • Your privacy choices
      Privacy Choices Icon
    • CA Privacy Notice

Get the app

  • © 2024 Headspace Inc.
  • Terms & conditions
  • Privacy policy
  • Consumer Health Data
  • Your privacy choices
    Privacy Choices Icon
  • CA Privacy Notice