The holidays can be a time of joyfulness, good will and being together with those you love. Unfortunately, they can also be a time of great stress if your holiday season or parts of it don't seem to measure up.

YMCA Senior Director of Health and Wellbeing Jennifer Menk visited KARE 11 News at 11 to talk about being mindful in your approach to handling holiday stress. “Mindfulness” is a term that’s gaining popularity as a key component in total wellness. It means being open to each moment of life with awareness.

Being mindful has benefits that stretch beyond the holidays and throughout the year. Mindfulness can help:

  • Relieve stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Feel satisfied and engaged with your life
  • Increase capacity to deal with adverse events
  • Maintain deeper connections with others

Menk says the great thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t require any extra time in your day. You don’t need to set aside dedicated time to be mindful—you just need to work on focusing yourself on the present while you do the things you already do.

Focusing yourself includes noticing sensations and feelings, acknowledging them without judgement (and not trying to change them), and then letting them pass. Examples are:

  • Body sensations such as an itch or tingling
  • ights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches
  • Emotions—try naming them as they come

As the year-end hustle and bustle ramps up, try these ideas to start or expand your mindfulness practice:

  • Everyone breathes, so try focusing on the sensation of breath—whether you’re working or working out.
  • Do a quick scan of your body, starting with your feet and working your way up. How do you feel right now?
  • While walking, try to appreciate where you are, rather than where you’re trying to go. What colors, smells and sounds do you experience?
  • Tackle household chores in the present. While folding laundry or doing the dishes, consider the sensory experiences of temperature and texture.
  • While eating, pay attention to the feelings and sensations you have while fueling your body. 

Although mindfulness can be a part of everyday activities, it doesn’t have to stop there. You can employ these same techniques during other mind-body activities, like tai chi, Pilates and yoga.

For more on mindfulness and stress, check out the YMCA website.

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