Every year when the holidays roll around I feel my anxious tendencies creep up on me. It comes from the most obvious and sneaky places: all of the fabulous feasts we’re invited to (gluten and alcohol temptations!), the increase of tourists to our tiny town (busy work and silly questions!), the reality of my budget meeting my shopping list (or not!), the things I didn’t accomplish yet this year (disappointment? success?), the crazy weather (praying for snow)… Wherever it comes from for you, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. My breath is shortened, my sleep is disrupted and I am easily thrown off my game when it comes to cravings, responsibilities and emotions. Well, friends, I have good news for you. I have learned a couple of techniques over this past year that are really working for me this holiday season and I’m excited to share them with you.
I warn you, they take some effort. While these tips don’t involve food or drink, they do involve dedication and perseverance. You might not feel the affects of them after a day, or even a week of practicing, but I promise they are working for you. In total, all three tips really take less than 20 minutes from your day. My guess is that you spend more time scrolling your facebook account, and where does that leave you feeling? Depressed, inadequate, lacking, maybe inspired to do something better with yourself and your time? I’m guilty of the scrolling…. trust me, it’s hard to remind myself that that feed is a highlight reel, not real life and not meant to compare my life to. Do yourself a favor and cut your social media time in half this week and try my 3 easy tips instead, see how you feel!
My 3 tips to surviving the Holidays without anxiety taking over:
- Gratitude. Gratitude is a wellness industry buzz-word these days, and with good reason. It may seem simple and minuscule; “of course I’m grateful for all I have!” tends to be the reaction I hear when suggesting this concept. But hear me out for a moment. When we focus on what we are grateful for once a day, and develop a habit of it, it positions itself the forefront of our consciousness and we end up having much more to be grateful for. Try this: put a piece of paper or notebook next to your bed and make a practice of writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day either before you go to bed or right when you wake up. I promise, your lover won’t mind the couple of minutes you spend practicing gratitude. He/She will feel the increase of positive energy and will in turn be grateful for your new exercise, perhaps they will even join you! To make it a little more fun, get yourself a cute notebook or little box to deposit small pieces of paper you write on. Make it fun. Make it a habit. Studies show that people who practice explicitly writing down what they are grateful for end up feeling happier and more taken care of in life. When we send those thoughts out into the Universe, the Universe delivers twice as many reasons to be grateful back to us. Awesome!
- Silence. Yikes, silence!? You mean, finding time to sit in complete quiet?? No radio? No TV? No kids crying or traffic noise? Yup. I’m not talking meditation here, although, in my world any amount of deliberate silence can be meditative. I’m talking about carving out a few minutes each day to just sit, stand, lie… whatever suits your mood…. and just be. For me, this happens best in the morning. When I get up I don’t turn the radio on immediately, I choose to let my mind make the noise and I enjoy the quiet of the day waking up around me. If the mornings are hectic for you and silence is not an option, find a different place. Do you commute to work by yourself? Turn the radio down for a few minutes and pay attention to where your mind goes. Is the bathroom your only private space? Use it. How long can you go without speaking or listening? Use the timer on your phone and try to give yourself at least a minute. Did you hear that? A single minute – 60 seconds of silence. You can do it, I promise. If that is painful, stick to a minute. If you can do more, work towards making it 5 minutes, but don’t rush it! At this point in the grand scheme of things, unless you are an experienced with meditation, stick to the small times. My phone’s timer is the most used application and it’s always set to 5 minutes. Close your eyes if you can, if that’s not an option (not in traffic!!) then just let your mind wander in silence for a few minutes and give yourself that space. Your mind may not ever thank you for it, but can you just imagine for a moment what it must feel like to be given that gift?
- Breathe. This is my favorite go-to stress reducer. Sounds basic, right? You breathe every moment of your life, oxygen is a key component to existence. But where does that oxygen go? How does it help you? When our breath is short and kept above our belly button it does the bare minimum. It fuels the organs and helps pump the blood and that’s about it. When we push that breath down below the belly button it pushes that oxygen into the starved parts of our body – deep into the organs, it nourishes the muscles, improves digestion and inspires the brain. We are more apt to think clearly, move quickly and most importantly transport our body from the stressful “fight or flight” response that wants to store fat, and into a more relaxed state where the body is inclined to burn the fuel we feed it (aka fat). This is my favorite tip because it literally doesn’t need time set aside to accomplish. Deep belly breaths can be done at any time during the day. Boss yelling at you? Belly breaths. Stressful phone call? Belly breaths. Kids screaming? Traffic piled up? Running late? To-Do list piling up? Dinner taking too long to cook? Belly breaths. Belly breaths. Belly breaths. Put your hand on your belly below your belly button. Feel your abdomen rise as you push the inhaled oxygen (through the nose is optimal) into that space. When you exhale (also through the nose if possible), feel your belly deflate towards your spine and all of the anxiety leave your body. Doing 4-5 in a row does wonders. Doing just one in a time of angst will help fuel the parts of your body that will move you past the moment of stress. Belly breaths. Boom.
So there you have it, friends. My three favorite ways of decreasing stress and anxiety during the holidays. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been using these techniques well before the holidays started. I use them every single day. The more I use them the more they work. Give yourself the time to be grateful, enjoy silence and to breathe. What amazing (and free!) gifts for yourself in this time of giving to others. You don’t need permission. You don’t need to sign up. There is no expense. You hardly need to set aside any time. Give yourself the gift of a less-anxious holiday this season and be prepared to truly enjoy the season of sharing and caring.
Sending Health and Happiness to you now and always,