If your experience of the holiday season seems to be more frantic than festive, take solace in knowing you are not alone. Across many religions, traditions and families, stress has become an all too familiar accompaniment to end-of-the-year celebrations. Long before the gifts and groceries are actually bought or made, stress can begin in the mind while only thinking about plans and preparations. So, when looking to reclaim your holiday cheer and dissolve the frenzy from what could be fun, begin at the root of the situation.
Start with a siiiigh…letting a long, steady exhale release from your nostrils. As automatic as breathing may seem to be, it is actually a direct influence to the state of your mind, which then influences your body, too. According to www.yogajournal.com, slowing and regularizing the breath switches your body into its parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for a relaxation response. Especially at a busy time like the holidays, you may tend to unconsciously shorten your breath, causing your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the adrenaline-driven fight or flight response, to over-fire and burn out your energy. Nostril breathing invites a more controlled pacing of breath, rather than quick gasps of shallow breathing through your mouth. Take this portable and always-available calming technique with you into store lines everywhere, transforming what could be an irritating wait into a precious moment to rekindle your inner calm.
Carry your calm out of the store and, even before a wrapped present is exchanged, you’ll be giving a gift to those around you. Although you may have gotten a good chuckle in the past from the infamous saying, “Nothing cures a bad mood like spreading it,” sharing a good mood does something even better than cure it, it increases it! Other than the time an average person spends sleeping, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of daily life is spent at work and home. Most often, you share your home and workspace with other people. During the most stressful holiday situations, it can be easy to wish you could whisk yourself away from crowds and coworkers. While quiet time devoted to yourself, like in meditation or yoga, can be an essential tool for your inner and outer equanimity, being alone won’t always be available. Practice giving a heartfelt smile, rather than a stressed-out snarl, to the people closest to you. Soon, you may notice that the brightest, loveliest decorations around you are not twinkling Christmas lights, but the smiles you give and receive. (And the best part? They don’t cost a thing and you don’t have to wrap them!)
So, go forth into December with a brave heart, armed not only with curly ribbon and gift lists, but with a deep breath and a genuine smile. Welcome back, holiday cheer!