1. When Under Stress Do Less: During the Holidays we often add more to our already overfilled schedule. Prioritizing and letting go of things that are not essential during the Holidays will help you enjoy, instead of resenting, the Holiday preparations and festivities.
2. Be in the Now: It’s easy to get swept up into Holiday memories from the past, which then color our present day experiences. Any time your thoughts drift to past memories and associations or assumptions based on past experiences - make a conscious choice to let those thoughts go and allow yourself to Be in the Now. You’ll relax and enjoy what’s actually happening a lot more if you’re not guardedly expecting to be as good or as bad as some memory from the past. Practice a daily 15 minute deep breath meditation.*
3. Balance Yin and Yang: Nourish your Yin by nurturing yourself: Remember that you can not pour from an empty cup. Take time to rest, relax, eat well and get 8 hours of sleep. At least once per week engage in one of these self-care practices: get acupuncture, massage, reflexology, or practice yoga, tai chi, Qi gong, breath mediation: see #7. When we burn the candle at both ends by overloading our schedule with too much activity and socializing we use up all our reserves and end up feeling depleted and wrung out. This Holiday Season pledge to balance activity with rest to keep your Yin & Yang in harmony.
4. Practice moderation by being selective: it’s easy to get swept up in the excessive nature of the Holiday season and end up eating too much, or drinking too much, or spending too much. Don’t be a Scrooge - but just tell yourself “Less is more.” Really savor what you’re experiencing. See #6
5. Let go of Expectations Two of my favorite quotes” “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” and “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” Michael J Fox. If you find yourself feeling resentful during the Holidays, search for your hidden assumptions and expectations and let them go. See #6 #4 #2
6. Tune in and stay connected: Remember that this is the Season of Light, Love & Joy: focus on thoughts and activities that make you FEEL lighter, joyful and more full of love. If the thought of going shopping makes you FEEL heavy but the thought of staying home and making hand crafted gifts fills you with glee - follow that feeling and let go of your assumptions and internalized expectations about what kinds of gifts will have meaning for others. Likewise, if the thought of hand making gifts makes you feel overwhelmed but the thought of getting everyone gift cards makes you want to sing and laugh - follow that feeling! Staying connected to the spirit of the Season will help you enjoy it more. Practice moderation by focusing on how things make you feel. If 4 oz of egg nog make you feel happy and ‘holidayish’ but 16 oz makes you feel dull and lethargic - staying connected means you listen to our body and practice moderation.
7. Breathe deeply: the busier we get the less we tend to breathe deeply. Since the breath is directly linked to your autonomic nervous system (which regulates if you’re in stress mode or relaxation mode) - the most powerful and immediate way to let go of stress and induce relaxation is with deep breathing. Short, shallow, irregular breathing is stress breathing. Long, slow, deep and complete breathing will shift you from stress mode into relaxation mode. When we’re in stress mode, which is also called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode you are more likely to feel cranky, pick a fight with a loved one, wish ou could escape the Holiday season, or freeze and tighten up all the muscles in your body which in turn causes a feeling of tension and pain. Practice deep breathing 5-15 minutes once, twice or three times per day can have a profound shift in how relaxed you feel overall.*
8. Slow down: anxiety and feeling overwhelmed happen when we try and accomplish too much in an inadequate amount of time. See #1 #4 #5
9. Feel contentment with things exactly as they are. We can avoid frustration and discontent by practicing the art of contentment. The need for perfection is a sure path to unhappiness. Practice letting ourself be content with things exactly as they are. When you receive a tacky gift, practice contentment. When you slightly burn the cookies, practice contentment. When your relatives are 60 minutes late, practice contentment. When your teenager is withdrawn and barely speaks a word, practice contentment. See #5 #7 #10
10. Keep the Qi flowing! Sometimes over the Holidays we either get too busy to maintain our regular exercise regime or we visit relatives and end up eating and sitting around a lot. Prioritize finding any way to keep your body moving. A daily dose of exercise will keep your Qi (energy) flowing and help body, mind and heart feeling happier, lighter and freer. Organize a family hike or a trip to the local skating rink, volunteer to teach a holiday family yoga session in the living room, or pack extra layers and take a long walk by yourself to take time out from Holiday busyness. A stagnant body leads to feelings of irritability and will definitely bring out your inner Scrooge! So keep your energy flowing by planning and following through with daily movement!
*Deep Breathing Meditation
Most of us tend to either breathe very shallowly into the upper part of the body. When we focus on breathing deeply we should:
Breathe in and out through the nose (mouth breathing shift us into stress: fight or flight mode)
Feel your ribs expand outwards towards the sides and back, feeling your spine lengthen with the expansion of the ribs.
Close the eyes of have a soft focus.
Feel your body relaxing.
Direct our mind’s awareness to the sensations being created in the body with each breath.
On the inhale, note where your breath is directing your attention in your body.
On the exhale, focus on feeling that body of your body: soften, melt, unwind, relax, let go.
Allow the breath to unify the mind with the body in the Present Moment.
Set a timer for 5-10-15 minutes: choose how long you have time to focus on the breath.
Practice Example: Morning meditation: 10 minutes before making breakfast: before lunch practice for 5 minutes: after getting home from work before preparing dinner, shift your energy by breathing deeply for 15 minutes. Practicing deep breathing prior to eating enhances digestive function. Make a plan, write it down and discipline yourself to establish a new ritual around deep breathing.