As we enter into the holiday season, a lot of people experience more stress: long lists of things to do, finite amounts of time, and often a strain on financial resources. Although stress can be healthy and encourage us to grow, when it becomes prolonged and chronic it depletes us and negatively affects our health.
I thought it might be helpful to share some suggestions, brought to you by the amazing sister sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda, to help manage your stress in general – including holiday stress.
Here Are Your 5 Best Tips For Staying Sane During The Holidays!
- Stay Hydrated. Your body needs to stay well hydrated in order to function optimally. And during the holiday season where the cold quality predominates, drinking room temperature or warm water can keep us hydrated and warm, and helps us to move toxins out of our system through the natural channels of elimination (urine, feces, and for women, menstruation).
If you find yourself at a holiday party with questionable foods and lots of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, definitely drink one cup of warm water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage, and for every couple of unhealthy snacks. The water will reduce the effects of the caffeine and alcohol, and will help you feel full faster so you don’t over-eat.
Do be mindful that drinking lots while eating will likely inhibit your ability to digest your food well. Ayurveda teaches us to eat our biggest meal at lunch, and to drink before and after eating instead of during.
- Go Outside and Breathe. As cold as it is at this time of year, the freshness is invigorating and nothing beats breathing real air! Both Yoga and Ayurveda work to contain and maintain our prana (vital life energy) and you’ll find more of it in the outdoors than inside. As it gets cold, we tend to hunker in. How can you make your time outside more interesting, or a family activity? Perhaps schedule a family walk through the park after dinner, go tobogganing, skating on an outdoor community ice rink, or make a snowman. Definitely get outside and breathe real air.
Whether inside or outside, try mindful breathing. Stop whatever it is you are doing, close your eyes, and focus on taking a conscious and mindful inhale, and exhale. Let yourself be present. Let your energy land in your body. Notice how you feel – give yourself permission to feel. Let your mind slow down – even if only for a moment. As you reconnect with your breath, your body-mind can re-integrate and you can move back into your life centered in your being. Do this as often as needed – many times a day!
- Maintain Healthy Boundaries. In Yoga we often talk about brahmacharya, which translates traditionally to celibacy, however the more modern practice is about “energy management” or moderation.
My therapist Christina always says, “Boundaries are Love”. I consider boundaries my “yes/no” list… Saying YES to one thing, means I’m going to have to say NO to something else. We cannot be all things to all people, and people-pleasing inevitably leads to resentment in our relationships – so I strive to say NO to one thing everyday, so I can say yes to #4 below…
Maybe I say no to the extra chocolate bar, because I already ate two…
Maybe I say no to spending more than I can afford, because I know it will stress me out….
Maybe I say no to the fourth holiday dinner, because I need that time for something else…
What will you say no to, so you can say yes to yourself?
- Keep up your Self-Care. We all have daily routines that support our health and well-being – this is the foundation of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. As we get busier, these self-care practices tend to fall by the wayside, and we are left wondering why we catch colds, feel depleted, or get irritated.
By saying no to the excess (see #3 above), we can continue to say yes to our own self-care. Maybe you need to say yes to hot water and lemon in the morning, your daily yoga practice, having a healthy home made lunch, resting between appointments, oiling your feet before bed, or tucking your kids in at night. The more you can honor your self-care regimen, the better you will feel, and the more resilient your body and mind will be to the stresses you encounter. When we feel good, we can be our best self wherever we go.
- Gratitude. While most people associate gratitude with the Thanksgiving weekend, I choose a daily gratitude practice. When I get frustrated, overwhelmed, or depressed, taking stock of my blessings is a great way to shift my energy in any given moment. Recognizing what we have, and what we are grateful for also allows us to make wise choices for ourselves during the holiday season. For example: If I am grateful for family, then perhaps my “yes” list will focus on family activities and celebrations. Or if I am grateful for my health, likely I will say “no” to people/foods/environments that will result in feeling crummy, bloated, or drained.
When I am in a grateful state of mind, my body relaxes, my breath slows, and I feel better. It’s a wonderful way to shift from my stress mode.
I hope these tools assist you to increase your stress resilience over the holiday season and beyond! Wishing you and yours a peaceful, enjoyable, and love-filled holiday!