Dear friends of Happy Gut,
As we approach the final crunch before the holidays and the end of the year, I asked my friend, colleague, and yoga teacher, Paula Tursi, how she keeps her calm during this stressful time of year. Here is her tool kit, which I know as a practitioner of mind-body medicine, will help you get through these last few days of the year with a smile on your face.
How Breathing (and a few other tools) get me through the Holidays!
The holiday season is a stressful time, without question! Even if you love your job, your spouse, your children, and all your family members beyond words, you will still feel stress building at some point during the holidays–whether it’s unmet expectations, preparing to host a party, or having to spend it with the in-laws.
Don’t we all feel increased pressure to get all the shopping done and still have “fun,” while putting on a bright smile through it all? In anticipation of all the year-end, to-do’s, last year I felt the stress coming on as early as October! That was when I decided to try and do things a little differently. I used time-honored stress “fix-it” tools I have acquired throughout the years.
Here they are for you to try:
1 The Embrace It Tool
What if you accept things as they are, perfect or not? The holidays can be very commercial, and they can be full of obligation, but they also offer an opportunity to delve deep into the meaning of the season. The holiday season is a time for reflection. It’s a time to meet with old friends and get out of your day to day. You get to break out of your life’s patterns. However stressful stepping out of your routine may feel, you can change that by re-framing it in your mind. Be present. Embrace each moment as a special one to be cherished with family and friends. Take in this celebratory time of year. Get excited about being social and doing things a little differently.
2 The Meditate Tool
One of the routines I make sure not to break during the holidays is my meditation routine. I ground myself every morning with at least 5 minutes of meditation. That gives me focus and clarity and a guaranteed few moments of stillness before the chaos of the day begins.
This is a simple way to do it: 1) sit on the edge of your bed or on the ground in lotus pose with your pelvic bones supported by a small bolster pillow, 2) clear your mind, and 3) quietly focus on your breath, before you do anything else. This morning meditation routine makes for a kinder transition from sleep to wake, and the slow breathing will stimulate the calming part of your nervous system.
3 The Breathe Tool
Even when using these tools, there are still moments when life gets ahead of me. In these times, I turn to my breath. When you get angry or anxious your breathing pattern changes, and you get into a cycle of negative thoughts and/or feelings. For instance, everyone can relate to holiday stresses, for example, when the person in front you in line has a cart full of items and a different coupon for each one!
Instead of losing your cool, take advantage of the “extra time” and practice conscious breathing. By this I mean, without trying to control your breath, take notice of how long your inhale is, then your exhale. After a couple of rounds of this, try to extend your inhale beyond your exhale. For example, inhale for 6 seconds, then exhale over 4 seconds. It’s likely that by the time you are done with this breathing exercise, the irritating coupon shopper will also be done!
4 The Gratitude Tool
The last and most useful tool is gratitude. During the holidays, when I get upset that I have too much shopping to do, or I just can’t take another social gathering, or my sister is really driving me nuts about this gift thing– I sit myself down again and think about how lucky I am to have the health and friends to celebrate this time of year with. I remember less fortunate times and feel my heart expand just a bit.
Take a moment, and find something you are grateful for. Breathe in that gratitude, and all the feelings associated with what you are appreciating in your life. Maybe it’s the smell of your favorite dish cooked up by your grandmother, the smile someone gave you while walking down the street, or simply admiring the beauty of a sunny day. Let that moment take over all of your being. Become one with your gratitude. Take it into your heart, then feel it expand into every cell in your body.
I hope these 4 tips help you find peace and joy during this holiday season.
Wishing you love and light and a moment to breathe,