Oh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year! That, somehow, also becomes a time of stress and chaos for most of us. What should be a relaxing time with family often becomes a mess of getting everything done, trying to eat right once in a while, and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves – yourself included. Fewer hours of daylight, unpredictable weather, poor travel experiences, and social events filled with insane amounts of food and drinks can leave us feeling way off balance.
However, this is an excellent time to slow down and put into practice the lessons you’ve learned through yoga this year. If this seems impossible, check out our four tips for surviving (and thriving!) the holiday season and beyond.
4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season
Set an intention to care for yourself. For many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” becomes “the most stressful time of the year.” Our regularly busy lives become aggravated due to additional expectations like hosting parties, baking cookies, and shopping for gifts. Just as we set intentions before yoga practice, I suggest you set an intention for self-care and self-love this holiday season. An intention is not just a thought – it’s a powerful commitment that begins the process of change. The commitment may be small – like five minutes each day of deep breathing – or it may be something longer like a daily yoga class. Whatever you choose, keep it doable.
Notice – and let go of – your expectations. We all fill our minds with expectations about how our lives should operate. For example, some of us strongly appreciate order and punctuality. Obstacles like traffic jams and long lines at the grocery store drive us crazy. Life – especially around the holidays – simply does not go according to schedule. At any moment, a canceled flight, out-of-stock gift, or any number of things can ruin our expectations. Part of overcoming stress around the holidays is simply learning to accept what comes before us. Yoga does a great deal of teaching along these lines. Each time you step on your mat, you challenge yourself to accept where your body and mind are that day and give yourself what you need – whether that’s a challenge or restoration.
Take a purposeful pause to focus on breathing. When we feel threatened or overwhelmed, our nervous system dumps stress hormones into our bloodstream. One of the quickest ways to diffuse this stress is through intentional breathing. While this certainly won’t feel easy at first, as you slow down your exhalations, you’ll begin to relax and recalibrate your body. I suggest taking a purposeful pause occasionally throughout your day. It’s important to let this come naturally so that taking a break is not yet one more thing on your hamster wheel of tasks and commitments. Perhaps it’s a few extra minutes of deep breathing in the shower or a deep breath before you walk in your house. The important point is to create small spaces in your day where you can hit the reset button.
Practice gratitude. While it may seem difficult to feel grateful in the midst of stress, it is possible. Consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down small things that bring you joy each day. Maybe you notice the sunshine peeking out just once during a stretch of gray, Michigan days – or maybe you notice that for one small moment you’ve stopped obsessing over your overly long to-do list. What seems like a silly exercise can do wonders in helping you recognize the beauty around you.
Most importantly, practice compassion and kindness with yourself this season. Don’t push yourself too hard. Spend some quiet time alone when you need to unwind – and make time for friends when you’re feeling social. Reflect on the good things and let go of the rest. Realize that everyone is really doing the best they can. Make time to breathe. And visit us at the studio whenever you need an escape!
We do have some limited hours near the holidays, so please check out our online schedule before showing up for your favorite yoga classes!