The Holidays always creep up on us before we know it. Why not get a head start on your holiday season so you can come out the other end of it with nothing but positive feelings. How can we do this? Here are five strategies to help you make decisions with confidence and ease to bring more joy and certainty to your holiday experience.
1. Breathe. You’ve heard the saying “Just take a deep breath.” Conscious, mindul, intentional breathing can help you in many ways. Most people don’t think about their breath. Therefore, most people are not very good at it. It has been proven that breathing techniques can help ward off disease by making people less susceptible to viruses. Efficient breathing also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This shift from ineffective breathing in a chronic stress mode to a mode of relaxed alertness can affect our metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Stress-free, relaxed breathing – that is full and comfortable – can increase the production of cells for immune system activation, promote bone repair and growth, as well as enhance the cellular, hormonal, and psychological processes. Sign me up, right?
So how do we breathe intentionally? Here’s a simple, easy way to start. Lay down if you can. If you’re not in a position to lay down, make sure you’re lifting the rib cage up off the waist line and as far away from your hip bones as you can, comfortably. Start out by taking a few cleansing breaths. Breathe in through the nose, then exhale out of the mouth. Once you’ve done this, begin breathing in and out through just the nose. Notice the speed of your inhale and the speed of your exhale. Try to match the speed of the inhale with the speed of the exhale. Once you feel like you’ve accomplished this, try to breathe the same length going in and out of the body. Once you feel like you’re breathing the same speed and the same length, try to lengthen your breath by one count. Every three or four breaths, try to lengthen one count longer until you have a long, slow, comfortable, and satisfying breath, with the characteristics of the inhale and the exhale being the same. This focus on the breath not only nourishes the body, but also relaxes the mind. Start by trying this for 3-5 minutes a day and if you can, do this 2-3 times a day.
Extend your breathing practice to what feels comfortable and doable to you. I find 10-15 minutes twice a day works great. One session in the late morning and one either mid-afternoon or before going to bed.
2. Meditate. By resting and restoring the mind we’re able to take in more and not get carried away by the chaos. Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being. Here’s an active meditation that I like to do to help with those jumbled thoughts.
Sit or lie comfortably and use your breath to settle the mind. The simplest form of meditation is the observation and pacing of the breath like we learned above. While you’re breathing, you may notice thoughts that come up. Instead of trying to shoo the thoughts away, give them a place to go. One way I do that is to imagine three welcome mats in front of three doors in front of me. If a thought about relationships comes up, I send that thought to the friends and family door. If a thought comes up about professional or personal responsibilities I may have on my calendar, I send it to the responsibilities door. If I have a thought that’s emotional, judgmental, or negative, I send it to the useless door. When I send the thought through their designated door, I acknowledge the thought and tell that thought I’ll get back to you when I can. If that thought is important, clarity will usually come with time and space. The useless thoughts? I may choose to keep the door locked in order to keep them from negatively impacting my day. This way, I can later examine their importance with time and space. Remember if you can look at your thoughts, you are not your thoughts. You are the divine intelligence looking in on the thinking.
3. Eat! Enjoy festivities not feasting. How do we survive the holidays without packing on the lbs? Make your choices fun and challenging. Have a game plan. There’s usually one party you know is going to be fabulous. Make that your only “let’s not worry about calories…let’s go and have fun party.” The other parties are fun or not-so-fun gatherings that shouldn’t require you to throw away your health. Here are a few tips.
- Never, ever, ever stand by a chip bowl or salted nuts. They make you want to drink more.
- Never stand next to a candy or M&M bowl (chocolate covered peanuts are not a significant protein source!!)
- Drink 8oz. of water on arrival to party and in-between each adult beverage.
- Pre-plan how many adult beverages you will have.
- If you know there will be few healthy choices, then eat something healthy before you go or take a healthy dish, i.e. a veggie tray or salad.
- If buffet style eating, 2/3 of your plate should be made from food grown from the earth, 1/3 of your plate for protein and/or carbohydrates. If you choose bread, then no cookie. If you want a cookie, no bread! Choices, don’t you just love them?
- Bring a playlist so you have dancing music and start dancing at least an hour before you plan on leaving. If you’re not a dancer, think of some other type of activity that gets you moving.
4. Giftgiving. The most treasured gift is time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts. Many times, much of our stress is financial during the holidays. Here are a few ideas for inexpensive or free gifts:
- Write a love letter to those who impact your life.
- Ask friends or family members what they really need to get done that you can help them with. Spend a few hours helping them accomplish that. One of the best things I did for my sister was helping her pain her bedroom AND we had fun!!
- Make your own trail mix or snack and put in fun cups or decorative tins from the Dollar Store. My husband and I do this every year to give to coworkers. They always look forward to it.
5. Travel. Grab some tennis balls! A lot of stress is involved in traveling, be it by plane or car. Use tennis balls (if they’re too hard to find, look for something similar in size and air inflated) to roll out knots in the upper, mid, and lower back. Just lay flat on your back and put the balls so they are touching and are on the right and left side of the spine. Roll the balls in little 1-2 inch lines, moving them slowly between the shoulder blades, and up and down the spine. Stop when you get to the buttocks. Take the balls out from under you and then try some back stretches. Bring both knees up to your chest and rock sideways to massage out the lower back. Try a twist by dropping both knees to the right, keeping both shoulders on the floor. Repeat on the other side.
It’s my wish to you all that you can enjoy the holidays in a way that creates memories that make you smile. May we not say “I wish I could have…”
I will be doing a workshop called “Surviving the Holidays the Mindful Way” in Valencia, CA on November 8th at the Holiday Inn Express.