Feeling a bit off-balance is a common by-product of modern life, especially during the holiday season.
In fact, the holidays seem to come pre-packaged with specialized stress. With all of the pressure to shop, cook, spend, travel and socialize, it is all too easy to be stretched beyond your limits, unable to enjoy special times with family and friends. As a rule, we (mistakenly) equate self-worth with doing and producing. But being too busy, especially during consumer-crazy, socially pressured holiday time, we miss out
on our true nature and the genuine spirit of the season. By taking a yogic approach to the holidays you can find a sense of stability, nurture your own spirit, and create a happier family holiday.
Consciously cultivate an intention to take care of yourself and your holiday obligations in a more centered way. Practice these nine mind-body lessons for more balance, harmony, and joy this year’s holiday season:
1. Find Refuge in the Body – When you feel yourself getting tense or pressured, just notice your breathing. Perhaps you can stop and breathe deeply and slowly. Then walk around a bit, feeling your feet connecting to the earth as a way of grounding yourself. The idea is to get out of your head and into your body.
2. Get Physical – Exercise keeps you centered, and building it into your schedule ensures that you will slow down, no matter what the day’s circumstances. Exercise cleanses stress chemicals from the body, reduces fatigue and boosts energy. Stretch for a few minutes throughout the day.
3. Sleep More – Allow yourself extra time to sleep to counteract the effects of stress. Napping and sleeping give us a chance to slow down and turn inward. This is especially important for women, who tend to jam sleep time to meet the high level of demands placed on them.
4. Snack Smart – Avoid the energy swings created by sugary snacks and processed foods. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks like sunflower seeds, other nuts high in protein, and packets of instant miso soup. Seek out complex carbohydrates for healthy energy.
5. Mindful Eating – You may be too busy for a proper meal break, but you can make the most out of the little time that you have. Practicing mindfulness while you eat will help you become more conscious and remind you to focus on nourishing your body. Try taking three relaxing breaths before you begin eating. Then, rest your hands in your lap at least three times while you eat, and breathe deeply again.
6. Prioritize – Figure out what’s most important and take action. This means the holiday season in general and individual stressful situations as they come up. Do not react and fall back into old habits or fears, but instead uncover what is crucial. Ask yourself, “How can I best take of myself in this moment?” , and, “What is the most helpful thing to focus my attention on right now?”
7. Follow a Routine – Although schedules are disrupted, find a way to maintain a modified routine. Balance is not working intensely for several days and then collapsing for a few. Create a routine that includes energizing and restful moments every day.
8. Get Creative – Paint, draw, or listen to music. Engage in anything that stimulates the right brain, the seat of creative solutions to old challenges. Getting creative refreshes the mind and revitalizes the spirit.
9. Turn Inward – The real key to finding balance is to focus inwardly and listen to what is inside. Take regular moments to connect with yourself. If you can do it while connecting with nature, so much the better. Whatever it takes to reconnect with your inner self is fine. A walk in nature, a nap, a two-minute meditation or twenty minutes of yoga can all create harmony. In stillness we may recover our strength and wisdom; in the quiet of non-action we are led to what will give us spiritual nurture.
With practice, this holiday season can be one of deep inner connection and peace. Slow down and reconnect with your own inner wisdom each day and you can feel grounded, rejuvenated and ready to bring your balanced, best self to your holiday celebrations. Cheers!
“Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself” Tao Te Ching