8 Tips To Keep Your Holiday Headspace Clear
Whether the inner child in you is waiting in anticipation for the sparkle and warmth of the holiday season, or you’re wishing you could fast forward to New Year’s Day and get on with the upcoming year, it’s important to do your best to stay balanced and healthy throughout the holidays. Many of us are looking at traveling to different environments in order to visit loved ones and then staying indoors among germ-filled recycled air. The overall stress of the season and can lead to becoming more susceptible to the flu virus, anxiety and depression, and general fatigue. We tend to convince ourselves to wait until January 1st to start over and begin a new healthy regimen, but why not do your best to keep up with health and wellness now, in order to enjoy a fully relaxed and joyful season?
A great place to start is by watching your consumption. The holidays seem to be an endless stream of social gatherings, but it’s not really an excuse to consume 10,000 calories more than you usually do (although we may try to convince ourselves otherwise). Over-consumption can make us feel lethargic and irritable and hinders our mental clarity. This time of year, more than ever, we need to take much needed time away from the stresses of the season in order to pamper ourselves. Keeping our body in balance is going to start with maintaining a healthy diet and taking quiet moments to find spaciousness and grounding. And as an added bonus, your family and friends are going to find that you are much more enjoyable to be around if you’re in good spirits.
Here are a few things you can do to stay balanced throughout the season.
1) Take a time out for deep breaths
Do you ever notice when your stress elevates, your breathing becomes shallow? It then becomes a cyclical state; the stress causes shallow breathing, and in turn, shallow breathing causes stress in the body. This can elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, and in extreme cases, can even lead to anxiety-induced panic attacks. If you’ve ever watched a newborn breathe, they inhale and exhale with deep, rhythmic breaths using their diaphragm. As adults, we lose that instinctive breath and settle into chest breathing. Deep breathing and breathing exercises help you to relax, bringing the body back to a natural state of calm. Deep breathing also grounds us, reduces heart rate, relaxes the muscles, decreases stress and increases energy levels.
So if you’re starting to feel stressed, take a few moments to step away from what you are doing and find a quiet space to focus on mindfully bringing yourself back to the present. Start by taking a few deep breaths from the abdomen area. If it helps, you can count your breaths. Inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four. If you need a deeper sense of relaxation, increase your count to six.
A daily meditation practice can help ease long-term psychological stress, anxiety, and depression. My personal routine involves waking up at 5am and using a meditation app like Calm or Insight Timer for 45 minutes. Even if you don’t have that much time to spare, taking 10 minutes to meditate each day still has its benefits. In meditation, the body fires on Delta (unconscious) Alpha and Theta (subconscious) brainwaves, and we are reducing the focus on the Beta brainwaves, which are responsible for stress and anxiety cultivated by the ego and conscious mind.
“Regular meditation practice can lead to changes in the body that are similar to changes that occur in sleep. The restful alertness you might experience with meditation is associated with decreased heart rate, reduced metabolism, and changes to the nervous system that reduce arousal that occurs during sleep,” says Dr. Adrian Williams, Professor of Sleep Medicine. So if you haven’t been sleeping well, try to add meditation to your daily routine to give your body the extra rest it needs. If we feel well-rested and energized, we are going to be less likely to feel stressed and we’ll be able to offer up better focus and productivity throughout the day.
3) Maintain a regular exercise regime
With aerobic exercise, not only are you boosting your metabolism and promoting weight loss, but you are also stimulating the body to create a sense of calm. Other benefits include reducing stress, warding off anxiety and depression and improving sleep. Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. Many studies recommend that you exercise at least three to five times per week and take at least one to two day off for stretching or restorative yoga. Exercise is certainly advantageous, but make sure you don’t run yourself ragged. There comes a point when continuing to exercise isn’t beneficial if you’re already worn down. Your exercise program could include going to the gym or going for a brisk walk or run and practicing yoga. Even if you’re not feeling very energetic, consider Yin Yoga which targets deeper connective tissue and promotes deep relaxation. A balance between cardio, strength training and stretching makes for a well-rounded weekly exercise program.
4) Get outside and get grounded
It is said that the earth produces electrons that are vital to our health and well-being, and by walking barefoot or swimming in the ocean, known as “earthing,” you’re able to connect directly with the energy of the earth. Although there isn’t an overabundance of official scientific studies, believers in earthing say that it can regulate the body’s biological rhythms, improve sleep, increase energy, lower stress and reduce jet lag. Now, for those of you who live in colder climates, taking your shoes off and walking around in the snow might not sound too appealing. I can, however, suggest a few alternative options for the colder winter months.
You can get outside and breath in some fresh air in order to clear the mind and connect with nature. This could be taking a walk in your neighborhood, or perhaps skiing, sledding or snowshoeing if you live near the mountains. If it’s a sunny day, sit at a window that faces the sun to give your body that much needed Vitamin D intake, which boosts the immune system and replenishes your energy. You can bring the outdoors in by finding a polished stone and set it on your desk, rubbing it when you feel stressed. If you are into crystals, find a good grounding crystal like hematite, quartz, or jasper. If you’re a plant person, consider purchasing an indoor plant and tend to it each day. Light a fire in your fireplace, utilizing wood logs to bring the organic elements indoors. And finally, one of the best ways to establish grounding in Ayurvedic tradition is to eat root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, beetroot, and potatoes. You can also try adding fresh grated ginger and turmeric root to your smoothies.
5) Take a salt bath
The minerals in salt baths are said to remove toxins in the body, reduce stress and anxiety, promote grounding and relieve muscle aches and arthritis. The best (and easiest) way to take a salt bath would be to take a dip in the ocean. But since that might not be comfortable or handy for anyone living in cold or inland climates, taking a salt bath is the next best thing. You may have heard your doctor or dentist prescribe Epsom salt to promote healing. Sea salt has a higher mineral content, but Epsom salt works well too, so adding either to your bath will be beneficial. If you don’t have time to run a bath, try rubbing salt on your body while you’re in the shower.
6) Use an essential oil diffuser
Oil diffusers disperse essential oils into the air, allowing the oil to be absorbed gently into the body. Depending on the oil, they can assist with boosting energy, promoting sleep, detoxifying your breathing space and assisting with fighting cold and flu with their antimicrobial properties. If you’d like a calming oil, try lavender, sweet orange, cedarwood, or even a holiday scented pine. For more uplifting oils, use tea tree oil, which is used by Aboriginals to treat coughs and colds with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and spearmint are natural antiseptics with anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. They also help support the respiratory system if you are battling a chest cold.
7) Practice light gazing
A simple meditation you can do at home is light gazing. As a child, I used to spend hours in the evenings throughout the holidays, listening to relaxing music and staring at the lights on the Christmas tree. Everything else around me would fade away. You may even notice the hypnotic trance that can occur when staring at a campfire or at your fireplace. Trataka, a word in Sanskrit meaning “to gaze,” is a form of meditation in eastern traditions. Trataka is said to aid vision by keeping eyes healthy, relieve depression and insomnia, reduce fatigue and enhance energy levels. Lastly, practicing trataka can also enhance intuition and open up access to a higher state of consciousness. Many people use a candle for this type of meditation, as it seems to be the easiest way to block out external distractions.
8) Take a phone detox
In this day of smartphone addiction, it’s difficult to break free from your (de)vices. The phone sends out different signals and radiation which can be taxing on your energy.
A new trend is to take one day of the week (people often chose the weekends) and turn off the phone completely. If you can’t turn off your phone because you might need to communicate, at least take a social media break. Some people opt to remove the Instagram and Facebook apps completely (or whichever your chosen addiction may be). You can simply X it off your phone and re-download it again on Monday. It will limit the temptation to continue to check your updates. You can also turn off the alerts off on your phone. My Whatsapp groups are non-stop. Turn off the sound and pop-ups on group chats. If you know someone might need to get a hold of you, tell them in advance to just give you an old-fashioned phone call. Try to also give yourself a curfew on your phone in the evenings. My rule is no phone usage after 7pm. At 7pm, my phone is set to automatically go into Do Not Disturb mode. The glare from the white backlight can also cause fatigue. If you’re going to use your phone, set it to Night Shift, which switches the colors of your phone to a warmer tone, and is thought to assist with a better night’s sleep. If you can, try not to put the phone right by your head when you sleep either, to distance yourself from the signals the phone emits. Maybe invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock if you need to see the time and get up at a certain hour.
I hope these suggestions are helpful in cultivating a relaxing and detoxifying holiday season. Wishing everyone has a safe, happy and healthy holiday.
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