Is holiday shopping and party planning wearing you down? Holiday stress can get even to “yoga people”! Whether you’re worrying about scheduling in-laws dinner, pre-holiday work deadlines, traffic jams, or getting everyone suitable presents, stress takes it toll on your body and mind. Modern scientists agree that stress can trigger anything from allergies and asthma to headaches and indigestion. If experienced over a prolonged time, stress can lead to heart problems, ulcers, and nervous breakdowns. According to ayurvedic expert Vasant Lad, stress and anxiety appear “primarily due to an aggravation of the vata dosha. So to heal anxiety, we have to balance vata.”
When all Vata dosha is in harmony, you will feel at peace and balanced. Here are 5 tips that will help to reduce holiday stress levels:
1. Create a routine – Nothing creates more stress than an erratic routine. When there is certainty, there is less anxiety. While it is difficult to maintain a routine living in New York City, you can always add some pleasant routine things into your day. Start with by waking up and going to sleep at the same time; try to eat at the same time everyday, and set a time for a daily walk or yoga. Slow, methodical exercise such as walking or yoga will soothe your nervousness. Pre-bedtime reading can be a good relaxing habit, as well. Ask your friends for an inspiring book and read it for half an hour before falling asleep. Think about your day and try to reduce anxiety provoking habits. Some of the common ones are: breakfast with newspapers and coffee (switch it to a pleasant conversation with a loved one and tea), TV in bed (there are other way more pleasant things to do in bed); going to sleep late and waking up late (try to go to bed by 10pm. Your body gets the most rest between 10pm-3am).
2. Take a Meditation Break – Meditation is different for everyone. Choose the one that fits you. Take a 5 min Shavasana, enjoy a 10 min Yoga Nidra or do a Deep Breathing exercise. Whatever you choose to do, focus on being in the present, being aware of your body, your surroundings, and your breath. Don’t force your breath, just let it flow effortlessly. Be an observer for a while. Let the lungs open up and breathe deeply without any rush. Deep diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress and puts us in rest-and-digest mode instead. Bring your attention to the sensation of the breath flowing in and out of your nostrils, this will keep your mind from wandering.
3. Oil Massage – Everyone loves a good massage, but Vata dosha needs it the most. You don’t have to go to a spa and spend hundreds of dollars. An oil massage from a loved one or an ayurvedic self-massage will do the trick. Pay particular attention to the feet, ears, hands, neck, and head. Use warm sesame or almond oil and add a drop of Jasmin, Sandalwood, or Rose oil if you want a special treat. Distribute the oil evenly over the skin and wrap yourself in a warm bathrobe. Rest for at least 15 mins and sip a cup of herbal tea. The Ayurvedic texts say that warm oil massage will help keep energy levels high during the day and promotes easy, restful sleep at night. It calms the mind and nervous system making an individual more focused and alert. You will feel serene and settled after a massage — the way you are supposed to feel during the holidays!
4. Herbal Teas – Fresh hot tea is a great stress buster. Our ancestors always used herbs to bring their nervous system back to balance. Age-proven plants like chamomile, brahmi (gotu kola), tulsi (holy basil), peppermint, licorice root, or valerian root have a calming stress relieving effect. Making tea and serving it can also become a stress-reducing routine. Take your time to boil water, choose you favorite mug, use loose leaves, and let the tea steep, while you inhale its aroma… and then enjoy every sip.
5. Yoga – Most yoga asanas can be relaxing if done slowly and with breath awareness. Fast warming yoga sequences can also be good since they can serve as an outlet for the negative energy. If you do yoga at home, spent some time in these asanas: Shoulderstand (sarvangasana), plow pose (halasana), half spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana), locust pose (shalabhasana), and lion pose (simhasana) as they are great for stress relief.
Last but not least, whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, separate the things in your life that you find stressful into two categories: things you can do something about, and things you can’t. If you can do something about it, then do it! If there’s nothing you can do, then accept it and move on.
Enjoy the Holiday Season!!!!