'Tis the Season
If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family . - Ram Dass
I would add, over the holidays. No matter how much we love our families, or how much we meditate, read spiritual books, and self-study, the holidays can be just plain hard. We travel long distances in heavy traffic, weighted down with gifts, food and sweets, and arrive into a home that our teenage self left behind many years ago. While our identity may have shifted from being a reactive, angst-filled teen into a mature, evolved adult, our families don’t necessarily see this. It’s hard to not regress.. whether that is into old communication patterns that don’t work or old eating and lifestyle patterns that we thought we moved past.
The actual holiday (whether that is Christmas, Hannukah or Kwanzaa for you) is the pinnacle of what, for many of us, has been a month-long celebration. While the cheer and merry-making are what makes this time of the year so great, it can also leave us stressed out. We spend more money on gifts, holiday parties and holiday travel expenses, which can lead to financial stress. Our usual routines are interrupted by guests, parties, extra travel and the actual holiday itself, making it harder to stick to regular bedtimes, healthy eating, regular exercise and a sane amount of alcohol consumption. The extra social commitments can cut into our work time, leading to trouble meeting end-of-the-year deadlines, leading to more stress. All combined, creating a perfect storm to break down our immune and nervous systems right at a time where we need them to function most optimally! Is it any wonder many of us find ourselves acting in less-enlightened ways with our family and loved ones?
So what to do? How can we take part in the joys the holidays can bring without burning ourselves out? Is it actually possible to have a clear mind, positive mood, and light body during the holidays?
If you couldn’t tell, I am writing from personal experience. I was always shocked (not in a good way) at how the holidays threw me. For many, many years, I would return home from my Christmas holidays tired, with a few extra pounds and feeling like I needed weeks to recover mentally and physically from what was meant to be a vacation. And I actually have a great family. Until I discovered good, non-negotiable self-care practices that is. I am pleased to report that I sailed through the last several holidays feeling light, happy, and even downright easeful. It’s not impossible, I promise!
So here are my non-negotiable holiday tips
Have lunch your biggest meal of the day: Your agni (digestive fire) is strongest when the sun is at the highest point. Make lunch your most important meal of the day – packed with plant nutrients, healthy fats, and a bit of clean protein. If you go to your holiday event nutri-fied and satisfied, you are way less likely to pig out on nasty snacks and fatty foods that will make you feel like shit the next day and add the extra inches to your waist.
Enjoy your eggnog, gluhwein or festive drink of choice, but not 5. Extra alcohol can degrade sleep quality and ultimately lead to increased stress levels. Try to stick to one or two drinks per evening or event, or better yet disguise your non-alcoholic drink in a fancy glass. :)
Move: Move every damned day. It doesn’t matter for how long. Just do it. There are MANY great short apps that are free or low cost -- I love Johnson and Johnson 7 minute workout, Sweat with Kayla and Yoga Glo. Or walk or bike to work. For many people exercise is a “keystone habit” – a habit which attracts other healthy habits – like healthy eating, good sleep, and moderate alcohol use. In the words of Nike, Just do it. Every day.
Make time to sit in silence. It may be hard to fit in longer meditation times in this busy season, so try instead small practices several times a day. 1, 2 or 5 minute sitting practices work for any schedule and can be done at home, in the work restroom, or as you hide from your family in the coat closet. Set a timer on your phone for how long and how many times a day to make it a non-negotiable. Whether you choose seated meditation, conscious breathing or yoga nidra – it doesn’t matter. Just sit and be quiet. Notice what worries or stressors arise. Get to know them without needing to change them. Then you can start to relax and not take things so personally.
Consult your schedule: Your time is too precious to be thrown about. Only go to holiday parties you either HAVE to attend for professional or family reasons or REALLY WANT to attend. Look at your schedule from a daily and weekly perspective and ask yourself how you are going to feel if you add this extra event. If the answer is awesome, sign up!
Visualize how you want to show up for the day and season: Picture it, you are lying in bed and the alarm goes off, rather than mentally running through your daily to-do list (which creates more anxiety and stress), visualize how you are going to execute your day aligned with HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL AT THE END OF THE DAY. Sounds corny, but it works.
Here is to a happy, healthy, and sane holiday season. If you are still looking for holiday gift ideas, check out my upcoming events and special discount offers below.