By Jacci Collins
As we barrel full speed ahead towards the holiday season, I can feel the stress and frantic energy mounting; not only in myself, but in my students. Too much to do, too little time.
Gift buying, holiday parties, baking, card-writing, the list goes on. On top of the stress from the extra activities, the food and drinks we typically indulge in this time of year can also make us feel sluggish, drained and certainly not on top of our game. If this is sounding all-too familiar, then rest assured you are not alone. Also rest assured: there are some simple steps we can take to counteract the stress and make this season the enjoyable holiday it is intended to be.
Here are 5 tools to help you along:
- Breathe. Hands down, the simplest and most effective thing we can do to calm the nervous system is to breathe deeply with awareness. Sit tall or lie on your back. Close your eyes. Fill your belly with breath on your inhale and release all the air from your lungs on the exhale. Continue for 5-10 minutes resting your awareness solely on your breath and feel the tension melt away…
- Practice gratitude. We have so many blessings in our lives, whether it’s the food on our plate, the roof over our head or sharing a laugh with a loved one, become aware of the abundance in your life by simply keeping your eyes open for it. We are surrounded by it.
- Remain dedicated to your yoga practice. It is in times of stress that our yoga practice holds the most importance. By dedicating time to yourself through your practice, you will actually help slow the hands of time. Even a 15-minute home practice will help connect the body and mind, improving concentration and relieving stress. Your body, your mind, and your loved ones will thank you for it. Few simple yoga postures to relieve anxiety and stress: balasana (child’s pose), adho mukha svanasana (downward dog), viparita karani (legs up the wall), savasana (corpse pose). Spend as long as you like in each of these postures sinking into sensation and breath. When all else fails, step onto your mat and see where it takes you.
- Play. Build a gingerbread house. Go to the mountains and make snow angels. Sing cheesy Christmas tunes at the top of your lungs. Try a laughter yoga class. Finding playfulness in daily activities helps us to not take ourselves too seriously. You can’t feel anxious, sad or angry when you are laughing, so even if it feels fake at first, crack a smile and see what appears.
- Cultivate compassion, forgiveness and peace. Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. I recently attended a workshop with world-renowned yogi and activist Seane Corn. The key to happiness in her opinion? Forgiveness. Forgiveness of others, forgiveness of self. Holding a grudge hurts only you in the end. Forgiveness is a choice. It requires a lot of compassion, but ultimately leads to peace.
The holidays often bring many welcome friends and relatives into our lives, but also many who may bring adverse reactions. See these people as opportunities to practice compassion. Change your reaction to them. Forgive, and start 2012 with a clean slate.
May this holiday season bring you happiness, peace and joy.