Here are a few tips for keeping calm and taking care during the holiday season.
Stress is an inevitable, natural, normal part of our lives. The problem is that we don’t always know what to do with it, so it can get stuck in our bodies and make us sick. The holidays are particularly triggering of toxic stress—family stuff brings up older baggage, the new year makes us question our lives existentially, we tend to eat and drink a lot more—and we have to go shopping! Here are a few tips for keeping calm and taking care during the holiday season.
It’s natural to eat more comforting, sweet foods and to drink more alcohol during the holiday season. Don’t bother feeling guilty about it! Instead, set up a few supportive routines in your diet so a few extra gingerbread cookies don’t destabilize everything. Make sure you are getting a healthy breakfast that includes fiber (flaxseeds are great) and a probiotic food like yogurt or kefir if you eat dairy. Make sure you are getting vegetables at most meals to ensure you’re nourished, and then enjoy the gingerbread!
Approach what you are eating with mindfulness and an intention toward pleasure. Feeling guilt about eating delicious holiday foods can ruin our enjoyment, add to our stress, and actually make it harder to digest our food. Stick to my three food rules as best as you can: 1. Sit down while you are eating, 2. Chew thoroughly enough that you can taste your food, and 3. Relax your belly. (More on that here) Food should be a stress-relieving activity, and these three rules help to make it that way!
Pleasure and Presence
Grief is cyclical, and it’s very common for the darkest days to bring back old feelings. Do your best to be present with what you’re feeling in your body. Often when we give ourselves space to feel, the feelings can move on more quickly. One of the most fun ways to practice presence is to seek out moments of pleasure, allowing them to exist alongside painful emotions.
Food is one way we can practice pleasure, but sometimes that comes with its own baggage. Make time for things you enjoy during the holidays, whether that is a tradition like going ice skating, or an escape from the holidays, like going out to see an action movie. Movement is fundamental for being present in our bodies, and will also help support us with the endorphins that come from exercise. You might be out of your routine exercise-wise, so try taking a walk outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of wherever you are.
Nourishing sleep and a regular meditation practice are two pillars of a calmer, happier life. But sometimes it’s really hard to get out of your head, making sleep challenging and meditation impossible. Guided meditations are very helpful here. They give your brain something to do while you relax your body, and they are incredibly helpful for falling asleep when your brain is busy thinking.
Legs up the Wall
Legs up the wall is my magic bullet—even 5 minutes in this pose can calm you down, soothe back pain and tired feet, and give you a little refresher that feels like you just took a 20 minute nap.
All you need is something to put your legs up on—if you don’t have a wall, use a couch or a chair. You might like to add a pillow under your lower back and an eye bag or a scarf to put over your eyes.
Dance it out
When an animal escapes a predator, many of them shake to release the stress chemicals from their bodies. Dancing brings together the pleasure of music, movement, presence in the body, and the joy of moving to a beat. Blast your favorite song, shut your bedroom door, and dance, making sure to shake your hands and feet. Don’t worry about what you look like or how awkward you are, just go for it. You’ll feel way better in a song or two.