The holiday season has always been my favorite time of year. When I reflect on my childhood, I remember the family traditions that made me feel at home within myself, such as decorating our house, helping my mother cook a special holiday meal and wrapping our homemade gifts. Even today, I love the holidays because they celebrate what matters most in life.
Despite my healthy dose of holiday spirit, I’m often forced to face the (holiday) music: Rather than savoring the season, we can find ourselves slipping into survival mode as we try to keep our heads above water. In the midst of it all, our beloved rituals are thrown overboard to keep the life raft afloat.
We may not be able to lighten our social calendar or shorten our to-do lists, but we can learn how to remain calm in the midst of the madness. So I want to share several of my favorite ways for keeping holiday stress at bay and staying connected to the magic of the season.
1. Connect to the moment
Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve helping my mother in the kitchen during the holidays. Cooking can be a therapeutic release, giving us mental space and clarity by getting us out of our heads, engaging our senses and helping us connect to the moment.
Another way to engage in the holiday spirit is to create homemade decorations for your house, such as fragrant pomander balls.
2. Sacred Space
It can be challenging for us to stay grounded when we’re feeling overwhelmed, so I encourage you to create a space in your home filled with photos and special objects
that remind you of what’s most important in our lives.
Each day, light a candle, and spend a few moments focusing on the significance of your display. Connect to each object, and contemplate how it makes you feel.
3. Gift wrapping
Wrapping gifts can feel like a chaotic race to the finish of the holiday season, but with a little planning and some simple supplies, like craft paper, kitchen twine and a small bunch of wintergreens, this to-do can become an opportunity to connect with the creative process and create a natural, beautiful presentation for your gifts. Instead of a chore, think of wrapping as a hands-on craft project that can be fun and also rewarding when you see the faces of the recipients.
4. Mindful meditation
Wherever our lives take us, we can reap the benefits of mindful meditation by following these simple steps:
- Close your eyes and take a few moments to observe your breathing.
- Scan your body and relax where you can.
- Visualize the special place you created in your home.
- See that space in your heart, and allow each photo and object to root you more deeply in what ís most important to you.
- Fill yourself with the positive emotions that arise from contemplating the things you love.
5. Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga invites the body to practice what it does naturally: renew. This type of yoga can initiate our relaxation response, redirecting our bodies’ energy to their housekeeping chores, such as digestion and elimination.
- The Floating Pose can help relieve our feelings of anxiety because when the front of the body faces the floor, it creates a feeling of safety and cues the nervous system to relax. When you’re overwhelmed, this pose will meet you where you are.
- A Restorative Twist stretches the muscles of the lateral torso and rib cage, encouraging a freer breath.
- And the Reclined Bound Angle opens the front of the body, inviting us to surrender to relaxation and inner calm. Each of these poses can be held for up to 10 minutes.
Chrissy Carter is a yoga instructor and lifestyle expert. She teaches yoga and trains teachers at YogaWorks in New York City, as well as on GaiamTV.com and on two popular Gaiam DVD. Find our more about her work, life and inspirations at chrissycarter.com