Shopping for gifts and watching your bank account deflate. Parties that never seem to end. School holiday events that you simply can’t miss. Caving into the pressure to host the whole extended family at your house for Christmas - again.
These are just a few of the ways that you might feel your stress rising this holiday season. Luckily, there are ways you can destress, stay calm and enjoy the upcoming festivities. How? Take a look at our top six ways to find your zen.
1. Get enough sleep
Inadequate sleep is linked to many health issues, including anxiety, depression and weight gain. And, when you’re in state of high stress over the holiday season, a lack of sleep can throw you off balance and make it difficult to keep up with your demands.
Here are two tried-and-true tips to get more sleep.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. You probably already do this for your kids. Right? Well, it works for you too. For starters, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day - even on the weekends. It’s also helpful to go to bed earlier than you usually do and limit your screen time leading up to bedtime.
- Try a sunrise alarm clock. If you still find it hard to commit to a bedtime routine (perhaps you’re making a list and checking it twice - in your head - every night as soon as your head hits the pillow), then you might want to invest in an alarm clock that wakes you up to a simulated sunrise. Clocks like this help you wake up gradually to simulated sunlight. This will help you feel more refreshed and energetic in the morning when you rise and shine.
To learn more about sleep deprivation and how to improve it, check out our guide to getting more sleep.
There are many ways to meditate and the most important first step is to just do it. Why? Because meditating helps you live more mindfully in the present moment. This, in turn, can elicit a calming feeling.
While you may think that meditation requires a blank mind (which seems impossible at this hectic time of year), this is far from the truth. Meditation is not about controlling your thoughts. It’s about cultivating an awareness of whatever is happening within yourself and your environment. When you do this, you’ll see that your thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t rule you and you can redirect your attention whenever you want.
This is particularly helpful around the holiday season when you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the upcoming events and your mounting to-do list. To start meditating, try this:
- Find a quiet room where you can sit comfortably, with your spine erect, but not rigid.
- Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and allow your body to relax. Notice any physical sensations. Warmth? Tingling? Vibrations?
- When you feel settled, bring your awareness to your breathing. There is no need to control or change anything about it. Just observe its natural flow.
- Each time you realize that your mind has wandered away from your breath - and it will wander often - gently bring it back. Sounds, thoughts, and sensations will arise. Just allow them to come and go without getting caught up in them.
If you feel like you can use a little more guidance, no worries. There are lots of apps for meditating, including Headspace, Insight Timer, 10% Happier, and Calm. I’ve been using Calm since August and I love the variety of different types of meditations offered.
Pro tip: Using a meditation app isn't cheating. On the contrary, it will likely help keep you accountable to your meditation practice.
Want to learn more about developing a mindfulness-based meditation practice? Check out this guide for easy ways to start meditating.
3. Practice self-care
This is a biggie, especially at this time of year when taking care of YOU falls to the wayside. What exactly is self-care? It’s when you make the time to take care of your body, mind and spirit.
For you, this may mean exercising or practicing yoga daily. Or, it may mean a much-need girls night out or a trip to a local day spa. Regardless of how you choose to practice self-care, make sure you carve out time to do this as it will help recharge your batteries and keep you on top of your mounting holiday obligations. To learn more about ways to practice self-care, check out this list of 5 simple and effective ways to keep your mind, body and soul strong.
4. Get outside
Even if it’s cold out, getting outside in nature is important to your mental and physical health.
In fact, spending time outside has been proven to lower stress levels. So, try something simple like standing under a tree and looking up at the branches, or taking a walk around the block without your phone. You’ll likely see that being outdoors can help you recharge, clear your mind and promote inner peace.
To learn more about how being in nature can lower your stress levels, check out these four ways you can benefit from being outside.
5. Do yoga
While we believe that yoga is part of a holistic self-care practice, it’s worth breaking as its own category. Why? Because yoga has numerous mental and physical health benefits.
According to Yoga Journal, yoga can help improve your immune system. Yoga can also help reduce your stress levels by encouraging you to relax your body and mind, slow your breath and focus on the present. Practicing yoga asanas can actually shift your body from activating the sympathetic nervous system - also called the fight-or-flight response - to the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to the relaxation response, a term coined by Herbert Benson, M.D.
Here at Pretzel Kids yoga, we recommend taking a little time each day to practice yoga.
6. Practice Gratitude
Did you know that being grateful can make you happier? It’s true. And this is why we recommend starting a gratitude practice - even at this super busy time of year.
Practicing gratitude will help you handle the pressures of the holiday season. Not only that but you may end up sleeping better and feeling less lonely, according to leading scientific gratitude expert Robert Emmons.
Want to know how to begin your own gratitude practice? It’s easy. Just follow these six tips to start feeling happier today.
Ease Into the Holiday Season
We hear you loud and clear: The holiday season is stressful! Yet, there are ways you can destress and ease into the season feeling more calm, centered and balanced.
By following these six tips, you’ll be on your way to navigating the holidays with grace. Are you ready to give it a try?