5 ways to support stress-free holidays
With looming to-do lists, invite lists, gift lists, wish lists and grocery lists, the holiday season can quickly become chaotic, and it may leave you feeling stressed and unable to be present and enjoy your quality time with friends and family.
It doesn’t have to be so stressful. The experience of stress is inversely related to your state of balance; the more balanced you are, the less you feel that life is stressful. Nothing may change on the outside, but how you experience our world can change — for the better. Ayurveda, the science of life, empowers us to balance our lives in body, heart and mind.
Here are five ways to feel less frazzled, find balance and enjoy the holidays more:
Take Time to Do Your Practice
Daily meditation, such as the Transcendental Meditation technique or the meditation of your choice, plus calming exercise such as yoga, can help banish worries. The trick is to not skimp on these daily de-stressors when time runs short. Pencil it in your calendar, make time and allow yourself to enjoy these de-stressing practices each day.
De-stress Your Digestion
According to Ayurveda, balancing any part of your body (or life) starts in the gut. If you’re not digesting food properly, the nutrients you’re eating are wasted instead of absorbed. Strong digestion keeps your immune system healthy and your brain happy. If things are off in your gut, your health may fall out of balance, leading to a vicious cycle of imbalance.
Simple Tip: Eat your main meal of the day at lunch rather than at dinner. When you eat a large dinner, you are telling your body to do two contradictory things: deeply rest, but also maintain a higher metabolic rate to digest food. Your body cannot reach the deepest, most restful part of sleep when it is trying to handle a big meal. Support healthy digestion and elimination by adding an Ayurvedic combination of herbs, called Triphala, into the mix.
Self-Soothe with Ayurvedic Massage
There’s no better way to prepare yourself for a hectic day than with a warm oil self-massage, known as abhyanga. This deliciously relaxing yet vibrantly rejuvenating massage strengthens your body, clears your mind and uplifts your emotions.
Lightly warm some organic sesame, coconut or olive oil and then massage every part of your body with attention, using straight strokes over limbs and circular strokes over rounded parts like the joints. Allow the oil 10-15 minutes to soak into your skin and work its magic, then bathe or shower.
Safety Tip: All oils are highly flammable. Storing clothing, linens, towels, etc. that have absorbed oil or automatic-drying these items can create a fire hazard. Launder these items immediately or, if machine drying, use low heat and remove as soon as dry.
Check In With Your Emotions
The obligations and to-dos of the holiday season can demand your time and energy, leaving you feeling depleted. Ongoing stress can contribute to imbalances in your mind and body, leading to feelings of sadness and physical fatigue. Take time to check in with your emotions and your heart during this busy season, and choose to let go of unnecessary stress and unfulfilling obligations. Try brewing a cup of vata tea, in either water or warm milk, to soothe your emotions when they are stirred up.
Your body heals itself during sleep, which is why quality sleep is essential to maintain balance. Ayurveda recommends turning in around 10 p.m., during the Kapha time of day when your body naturally supports rest, and waking with the sunrise.
If you find yourself revved up during the evening, try a simple routine to slow yourself down and prepare for rest: Dim or turn off all the lights in your home as the sun sets, power down your electronics and enjoy a restful activity such as reading. You may find that drowsiness naturally comes on. If you have trouble going to sleep, wake with the sun in the morning and spend a few minutes walking in the early morning light. These evening and morning routines are a great way to reset your body’s natural rhythms.
Underneath all of the holiday activities, remember that the end of one year and the beginning of another is a time to practice gratitude and find divine connection within and around. Count all the things in your life to be grateful for, big or small. Make a list and express your gratefulness for them each day.
This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Fall 2017 issue.