Finding your zen during the silly season
Some of us start putting up the Christmas decorations in October, while others look at the festivities with a sense of impending doom because it feels overwhelmingly stressful. Did you know that you can feel festive without the stress? All you need is a sprinkle of daily yoga and mindfulness and you could manage the silly season from the peace of your own zen zone!
When we’re stressed out our body can engage in fight or flight mode, turning on our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and flooding the body with chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. While these chemicals are useful when real danger is around, consistent stress means a high level of these chemicals in your body and an increased risk of many serious health problems.
While the SNS is activated, it also takes energy away from non-priority systems like the immune, digestion and reproduction systems, meaning you’re more prone to getting sick, digestive issues or even menstrual upset during or after stress.
The balance to the SNS is the PSNS or the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which conserves energy and regulates all our body’s systems. It’s activated by stimulating the vagus (vay-gus) nerve, that runs from the brain, down the back of the throat, through the diaphragm and on to many organ systems. Pranayama and Yoga are amazing methods to stimulate the vagus nerve. Ujjayi breath will activate it through the back of the throat and belly breathing activates the nerve as it passes through the diaphragm. No wonder we can feel so zen after yoga and pranayama!
YogaLight has oodles of online classes that focus on creating balance, releasing tension and revitalising energy, not to mention pranayama and meditation videos to further activate that PSNS, but here are a few other general tips that might help you navigate the stress of the silly season:
Be prepared: Before heading out into the crowds and chaos, allow yourself to take a moment and prepare using breath and visualisation. Put one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Take several deep belly breaths and visualise a bubble forming around your whole body, even under your feet. You can fill this bubble with golden healing light and set the intention that any stress or negative emotions that you begin to feel will be dissolved by this beautiful light. Affirm to yourself that no negative energy or emotions can penetrate this bubble; only positive energy and emotions will be allowed through this protective shield.
Focus on BEING present while looking for presents: We’re so used to multi-tasking, but we can actually be less efficient in this mode than if we’re fully present and able to focus on one task at a time. Allow yourself the space to be present by spreading out your to-do list over several days or even weeks! By giving yourself more time than you need, you can have the pleasure of a quick shopping experience and lower stress levels. If you start to feel the busy environment taking over your focus, come back to your breathing. Inhale a deep belly breath and say to yourself ‘I am here’, exhale saying ‘this is now’. Take at least 5 of these breaths and find your focus and calm in the present moment once again.
Be the observer: Ever feel like there’s not enough space in your head for all your thoughts or enough space in your body for all your emotions? Try being the observer to your thoughts and feelings by taking a step back and noticing them before they start to overwhelm you. Regularly check in with yourself throughout the day, take a few moments to belly breathe deeply and observe your emotions (what am I feeling? where am I feeling it in my body?) and see your thoughts as clouds drifting by the viewing screen of your mind. Creating a separation between you and your thoughts allows you to be the observer, rather than the participant of the stress you’re dealing with right now. It provides a gap to allow your belly breaths to work their magic on your vagus nerve and soothe your nervous system, creating clarity, calm and focus.
Let go of expectations: Along with our to-do lists, we often have an expectation of our holidays – we must relax fully, we must do ‘x’ number of activities, we must visit all our extended family, etc, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having goals for your time off but getting so attached to the expectation that they will happen as you want them to or will even happen at all, creates a level of anxiety that is the antithesis of relaxation. By committing to the attitude of acceptance, that everything is happening as it’s meant to and being open and flexible to change, you can ensure that your holidays are happy and zen no matter what happens! Remember that change can also be a good thing – perhaps giving you an even better experience than you’d planned!
Practice loving-kindness to yourself and your loved ones: Schedule individual downtime for you and your family members. Quiet time is often forgotten in the need to be busy and socialise. A YogaLight class of even 10 minutes will help reset and revitalise you. Also try to release the small stresses and focus on the big picture – yes, hubby forgot to get the cranberry sauce for the turkey but is that truly what you need to create happiness today? Happiness is a choice; choose to let go of the tension and savour the love connection.
Activate your auditory calm: Make sure you’ve always got your headphones with you so that you can plug into some soothing sounds. Spotify has SOOO many relaxing playlists or you can create your own favourite playlist of music that pushes your chill button while walking around, driving through traffic or waiting in that Kmart queue!
Clarity and calm through smell: There are so many ways to get a whiff of essential oil throughout your day (car diffuser, purse roll-on, home diffuser, jewelry that you can infuse with essential oil) and so many different oils that can help you clarify and calm instantly. A few to try are:
- Lemon for calming and immune support
- Lavender for nervous tension and headaches
- Jasmine for calming, confidence and energy
- Rosemary to stimulate and revive
- Cinnamon for concentration and focus
- Peppermint for clear thinking and migraines
Practice yoga – especially YIN yoga! While it can be tempting to skip your yoga practice during the holidays, it’s actually the perfect complement to your holiday stress (and overindulgence!) Even a quick round of sun salutations can help you de-stress and work out the kinks, assist with digestion and provide energy for the afternoon slump. But to really balance out your busyness buzz, check out YogaLight’s online YIN classes to help slow you down and release built-up tension (or just type RELAX into the search bar of the website to see the full spectrum of chill out classes and courses available).
Wishing you a relaxing, loving and laughter-filled holiday season.