It’s no surprise that we may feel a mixed bag of emotions as the holidays approach- excitement, anticipation, and joy along with, perhaps, anxious thoughts or feeling rushed, fatigued, let down, grumpy, or overwhelmed. After all, the number of things on our ‘to do’ list tends to go up at the same time the amount of daylight is shrinking and days feel like they are getting shorter. We may struggle with high expectations of how a particular holiday “should” be. Quite often our experience is not living up to that ideal vision.
Take a lesson from the yogic tradition at this time of year to consciously bring more balance into our lives. A fundamental tenet of yoga is “balance”. This focus shows up when we complete a posture on both sides of the body to maintain symmetry or we do particular body movements or breath that enhance our physical balance. This concept of balance goes well beyond the physical body though to include balance of our emotions, thoughts, and the external things that come in and out of our lives.
One important way to maintain our balance for this holiday time is to pay more attention to what we take in and what we release or let go. This time of year we typically take in extra food, drink, alcohol, gifts, social exposure, heightened emotional experiences, even extra visual and sound stimulation. We can quickly feel “off“ if we increase what we take in without increasing what we process and send out. By carving out time that allows for release and elimination to improve our sense of equanimity and balance we may be able to enjoy the season more.
Try These 3 Steps to Add Balance to Your Holiday Season
ADD OR INCREASE INNER-FOCUS / MEDITATION TIME:
Now is a great time to add in 3 to 11 minutes of meditation and /or breath work right after you roll out of bed. Begin with “Sufi grind”: sit in cross-legged position with you hands on your knees and rotate your upper body around the base of your spine in a circle. [note: if you can't sit cross-legged, sit in a chair or on the edge of the bed with your feet flat on the floor]. Close your eyes / Inhale as your body moves forward / Exhale as your body leans back. This movement is good for physical and emotional elimination. Next, try a favorite meditation or do a mindfulness exercise where you sit quietly and keep returning your focus to your breath.
It may seem counterintuitive to consider adding one more thing into your already over the top day, but you will find that starting your day with a calming practice spills over into the rest of your day. It may help you be more focused and efficient when activities heat up. Also, the inner-focused time may help counterbalance the increase in socially interactive holiday moments.
CLEAR OUT YOUR SPACE:
At least once a week during the holiday season, decrease the clutter in a specific portion of your physical space. In seeking balance, it may help to focus on clearing out and releasing physical things and not just taking them in during this time of gifting. Keep the process very simple by going through just one drawer; one type of clothing (e.g. sort and pitch your socks); or one small, well-defined area of your work or living space. Notice how you feel after clearing out and letting go of items from this part of your life.
CONSCIOUSLY NOTICE AND RELEASE EMOTIONS DAILY:
Typically, we don’t notice a gradual build-up of stress and negative emotions that we haven’t dealt with until it leads to an emotional “melt-down” or a “rupture” in your relationships. Instead, try increasing your awareness each day of how you are feeling. This process is not intended to be in-depth or time-consuming.
A couple of times each day, check in with what you are feeling and then send it along its way: Close your eyes. Take 5-10 long deep breaths. Now simply take stock of any emotions that bubble up for you at this moment. It takes discipline, but try not to analyze, assess, evaluate, or criticize what you are feeling. Your aim is to Notice, Name, Allow, Feel, and then consciously Release each emotion you become aware of. To end, raise your hands above your head and shake them out.
You may be surprised at the benefits you feel if you take simple steps to bring more balance to your holiday season. Pay attention to how small daily adjustments help ease the tension and increase your adaptability to cope with the extra demands of this time of year.
If your stress and anxiety continue to build, contact me and we'll work with it together.
Dianne Fish, LPC