'Tis the season to be jolly… That’s a lovely idea, but in reality it can be more like “'tis the season to be freaking out!”
As joyful and fun as Christmas is meant to be, stress definitely has a knack of building up to the point of combustion at this time of year. From sleepless nights contemplating the lengthy shopping list and already enormous credit card bill, to planning the perfect meal and hoping the family all keep their shit together for just one day, you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re caught in a red and green colored tumble dryer.
So what do we do? Well we can’t cancel Christmas just like we can’t avoid stress any other time of the year. But what we can do is manage ourselves and choose how we respond to the additional seasonal pressure.
Here are a few of my favorite yoga flavored tips that can help you float through the festive season in a calm, relaxed, and stress-free way.
1. Get Up 30 Minutes Earlier
No time for yoga? Whatever! Make time by getting up earlier.
Honestly, the benefits you’ll get from even a short morning practice will totally outweigh that extra half hour of sleep (if you don’t believe me, try it first, then decide).
2. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes (Let Go of Perfection)
Perfection is boring! We’ll all remember those Christmas Days when the turkey came out overcooked and we had to eat peanut butter sandwiches instead. Or when someone mixed up the presents and Nana got the hoverboard.
Just be okay with the idea you might make a mistake at some point, and you’ll be a way more relaxed version of yourself.
3. Remember the Bigger Picture
Rather than getting caught up in the detail of all the things you have to do, just keep bringing your focus back to what the festive season means to you.
If you’re religious, then focus on your beliefs. If it’s about family and good food, close your eyes and imagine your nearest and dearest laughing, eating, and having fun together. If for you it’s about giving, then find a way to do something kind for someone in need.
4. Make Time Every Day Just For You
Don’t put yourself last! Shopping for gifts, planning, and creating meals and work events and socializing on top of normal daily life can actually deplete our energy levels. And that’s how you wind up running on empty.
So before that happens, make a little time every day (even just 10 minutes) to do something just for you. Pick flowers, go for a walk, sit and enjoy a cup of tea, or hey, practice a little yoga! Doing something small every day that fills your internal cup will help you feel relaxed and energized.
5. Stay Present
Stress and anxiety project us forward to the future as we worry about what’s going to unfold. When you practice being present, you start to realize that most of your stress hasn’t actually happened yet!
So anchor yourself in the present moment by noticing what’s actually going on around you; take in the details, the colors, shapes, smells, and sounds. If your mind starts to race off, just gently bring it back to the details and notice how you feel after just a few minutes.
6. Inhale Calm, Exhale Stress
If we don’t release stress and tension, they build up and create a pressure cooker effect. We can alleviate that pressure by simply breathing away our stress and worry.
Try this simple practice. Sit, stand, or lie down and close your eyes. As you inhale, imagine you are breathing in calmness and coolness, and when you exhale imagine your stress, tension and anxiety physically leaving your body via the breath.
7. Be Still
When we’re frazzled, it’s like we’re on a treadmill. The solution? Get off the treadmill. I know that sounds really simple, but that’s because it is!
Take 5 minutes and allow yourself to be completely still, whether you’re lying down, sitting, or standing. Resist the urge to react to those phantom itches, adjust your clothes or hair, and just be still. When the body is still, the mind has a far better chance of resting.
8. Practice Gratitude
The simple act of focusing on what we are grateful for can soften your energy and take some of the focus out of the mind and into the heart.
Close your eyes and think of someone in your life you’re deeply grateful for. Feel them in your heart center and imagine your gratitude getting bigger with every breath. Seriously, after just a couple of minutes those energy sucking worries will be replaced with uplifting positive vibes.
9. Take a Guided Relaxation or Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra and guided relaxations are my go to practices when I’m in a flap. The benefits of relaxing your body and slowing down/calming the mind are far reaching and can positively impact your mood, your sleep, your patience levels, and your sense of humor.
Managing stress doesn’t have to be complicated, but we do need to make more conscious choices about how we respond and what we give our energy and focus to. And part of that is knowing what to do. I hope this list gives you the inspiration you need to find some zen this festive season!
How do you manage to stay stress free during the holidays (or any time of year)? Share with us in the comments below!