Sometimes an opportunity is obvious, sometimes it can be cloaked by perception. Often opportunities can pass right by because they look like a problem. When fear comes into the picture it seems opportunities dry up all together.
During my first few attempts at yoga I was afraid of looking foolish. The fear I harbored inhibited my confidence. I was thinking about all the things I hadn’t learned to do yet. I was looking at it backwards. I considered my newbie status to be a detriment, when I should have focused on the limitless opportunity of learning that stretched out before me.
Luckily, I loosened up and figured it out. I relaxed into a practice were I can be realistic about my abilities, push my boundaries, try new things and understand that mistakes are not failures. As always, this lesson in my yoga practice allowed me to reflect on how I approach similar circumstances in everyday life.
I think the approaching holiday season is a great opportunity to take this yoga lesson out into the world.
There is a lot of anxiety that accompanies the approach of the holidays. People become stressed on so many levels. There are the logistics of gathering with family and friends, the extra expenses that come with gifts and travel, the extra responsibilities of cooking and entertaining and the less talked about family tensions that often come to a head at this time of year. It can be challenging.
But isn’t every challenge an opportunity?
Here are 6 practical tips to using yoga philosophies to create a less stressed holiday season.*
1. Acknowledge how you are feeling. The holiday season is built up to be an extra happy and festive time. For many people it is and that is terrific. However, if you find yourself feeling blue or down you should not force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. Do not bottle it up. Being human, it is normal to have a whole range of emotions. It is not normal to suppress emotions and pretend to be cheerful when you are not. Do not judge yourself and find a safe place to express yourself.
2. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
3. Practice acceptance. Work to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
4. Take a breather. Find some time for yourself, even if it is just 15 minutes. A little bit of time alone can recharge you enough to take on the next “to do list.” Here are some relaxing activities you can do on your own:
- Practice Sama Vritti Pranayama (Equal Breath). This means inhaling and exhaling for an equal count.
Take a seated position. Ideally, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and your eyes should be closed. Sit up straight and inhale for a count of eight. Pause when your lungs are full and then exhale for a count of eight, emptying your lungs completely. Repeat at least 3 times.
- Take a walk
- Listen to soothing music
5. Practice gratitude. Yes, this time of year brings added stress but it is also a time to count our blessings. Often our stress is created by expectations we hold that are not necessarily based in reality. Let go of that stuff, enjoy the people you want to enjoy, take in the beauty of the season and let it all unfold.
6. Give back. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to practice altruism. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing a check. This is an opportunity to start a family tradition of donating time around the holidays.
- Donate time to a soup kitchen.
- Deliver meals to those who are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves.
- Participate in a Turkey Drop on Thanksgiving.
- Organize or participate in a food drive.
- Organize or participate in a coat drive.
I hope you love your holiday season. But if you don’t, I hope you take the opportunity to make changes so that you can create something that you do love.
*For a more in-depth list visit The Mayo Clinic.