Ah, the holidays. They can drive you a bit bonkers if you let them get out of hand. The trick to smoother holiday sailing is learning how to navigate them so you’re not swept into a sea of stress.
Here’s my prescription for keeping mind and body on an even keel, from now through New Year’s Day:
1.) Embrace routine. There’s something about the holidays that tend to make us toss our usual routines to the wind. In a word, don’t! Instead, try to keep your days on track, going about most of your daily routine as you would at any other time of year. While your evenings may be a bit jam-packed, maintaining some semblance of a daytime routine amidst the chaos will help you feel like you still have some control over your time.
2.) Lighten your load. The holidays are a time of excess, when over-commitment seems to be the order of the day. All that over-booking boosts our seasonal stress levels and our total load compromising our immunity to boot. How to stop the insanity? Just say no to (for example) 20% of those extra activities and last-minute invitations. Be conscious of protecting your time and using it wisely. If you’re concerned about possibly offending a friend or colleague by turning down an invite, when saying no try to book another date with them early in the new year to make up for your holiday bailout.
3.) Create a roadmap. For most of us, planning out our work projects is second nature, so why not do the same for the holidays? Tackle holiday logistics in advance and figure out a battle plan. Develop a rational, do-able roadmap that allows you to schedule in the downtime your body and mind needs, yet still enables you to attend to the things that need to happen. With a plan in place – and scheduling time for specific parts of Project Holiday – all will come together more smoothly and make it easier to say no when there isn’t room on the schedule.
4.) Dump tradition. If you find yourself frequently asking, “why am I doing this” during the holidays, it’s a pretty good indication that the activity is no longer serving its purpose and has become a chore. If you don’t truly enjoy it anymore or it takes time away from something you’d rather be doing, then it’s time to dump the tradition – or re-think it how to do it better, faster or simpler for next year if you’re not ready yet to completely let it go.
5.) Know your limits. In other words, keep the number of events you attend to a few nights a week, ideally with time in between to give yourself (not to mention your liver) some nights off time to rest. As a wise man once said, if you’re going out 4 or 5 nights a week and aren’t running for office, you’re over-doing it.
6.) Be here now. During the holiday rush, the more you can live in the moment, the healthier life will be for your mind and body. Throughout the day remind yourself to slow down, to breathe, to take a moment to just be. Be aware of your breathing – and what it’s telling you: if breathing is short and shallow, your anxiety levels are likely rising and it’s time for a time out.
7.) Chill out with breathing breaks. At this time of the year our tension levels can rise in part because we forget or are too busy to “take five.” To help bust seasonal stress, hit the pause button with regular breathing breaks. Find a quiet spot, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, and do some slow, deep breathing to help re-invigorate your body, get you out of your head and release tension.
8.) Strike a pose. Give your body the gift of Restorative Yoga. What I love about it, is that just when I need to unwind from a challenging day or re-energize myself for an evening out, 15 minutes of restorative yoga almost instantly restores my energy and vitality. I think of it as a mini-vacation for mind and body – and highly recommend it to all! To re-energize I lie in Reclining Open Chest Pose and to chill out I lie in Reclining Belt Pose (aka Supta Boddha Konasana)
9.) Soothe yourself – with tennis balls? Granted, it might sound odd, but at this time of the year, tennis balls can be a lifesaver for aching feet, necks and shoulders. When you get home at night grab some tennis balls and treat yourself to the ultimate foot massage or do this neck and shoulder release to help soothe aches and release tension.
10.) Move and groove. My seasonal saviors? Walking and dancing! During the holidays, bundle up try to walk everywhere you can – to the store, to the mall, through the mall, around the neighborhood. Use the walking time to reconnect with your family, friends, dog or anyone who might be getting lost in the holiday shuffle. When the weather’s bad and you’re feeling cooped up, put on some music and dance around the living room. You’ll get in a little extra exercise and get to experience the joy of simply grooving to the beat of your favorite tunes.
11.) Take a tip from Cinderella. Leave before the clock strikes midnight, or whatever time that won’t interrupt your normal bedtime. Getting good and regular sleep, regardless of when the party may actually end, is essential to staying healthy and energetic throughout the season. Also eat and drink light in the evening to make sure digestion is well under way before you hit the hay – a belly that’s working hard all night can be extremely disruptive to sleep – so get your eating and drinking done early.
12. ) Enjoy your gifts. Particularly the ones that don’t come wrapped up in ribbons and bows. Take a moment to think about all that you have to be grateful for – not what you think you’re missing – and thank God or the universe for bestowing these gifts upon you. Reflect on how lucky you are to have family, friends and loved ones to celebrate the season with – and in a quiet moment, let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. That’s one gift that will lift both your spirits and create a memory sure to last longer than any physical gift.
13.) Practice Ubuntu. As you go about your business, working, shopping, cooking, attending events amidst the holiday craziness, remember to practice ubuntu – a Xhosa concept that means, “I am because you are.” In other words, be conscious of how you treat others, even relative strangers. Look your cashier in the eye when you say thank you; be kind to the taxi driver; offer your seat on the train to someone who looks like they need it. Those little moments of simple, positive connection with others spreads good feeling and brings us all closer together. As Bishop Tutu says, “my humanity is caught up in your humanity, and when your humanity is enhanced mine is enhanced as well.” When it comes to ubuntu, feel free to over-indulge!
14.) Commit to have a happy healthy peaceful holiday. Give, receive, be grateful, take care of your body and feed your soul throughout the holidays so you can enjoy them the way they were meant to be enjoyed!
15.) Give in a way that gives you joy instead of out of obligation. Remember to HAVE FUN!!