During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in frantic activity that leaves you exhausted, out of balance, and susceptible to winter colds and flu. If you want to truly enjoy this special time of year, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is nurturing self-care.
1. Do one thing at a time.
Instead of multi-tasking, give yourself the joy of focused attention. When you’re cooking, turn off your phone, Blackberry, and TV. Let yourself fully experience the sensory pleasures of preparing and eating your special holiday meals. If you’ve decided to send out Christmas cards (remembering that you can ignore the voice telling you “should” do so), make it a pleasurable ritual. Turn on some beautiful music and focus on the gratitude you have for each person to whom you’re writing a card.
2. Commit to less.
Don’t succumb to the collective hallucination that would plunge you into a mad scramble to find thoughtful gifts for everyone from your mother to your child’s teacher, create reindeer topiary for the lawn, and make platefuls of cookies, candies, and pies from scratch. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you and your loved ones.
3. Communicate consciously.
A helpful tool to prevent emotional strain at family gatherings is the Buddhist practice of “right speech.” Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions: Is what I am about to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Find more conscious communication tips here.
4. Maintain a restful sleep routine.
While it’s easy to fall into an erratic schedule with parties, travel, preparation, and other seasonal events, you will feel better and actually be able to accomplish more if you cultivate a restful sleep routine. When you find yourself pushing too hard or overdoing any activity, rest.
5. Learn to meditate.
Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation. When you meditate, your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. You go beyond the mind’s noisy internal dialogue and experience an oasis of inner silence and stillness. An easy way to get started with meditation the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge – we have a brand-new free challenge starting in February 2012, and you can also start right now by downloading our Summer Meditation Challenge. Learn more here.
6. Eat warm, Vata-pacifying foods.
When the weather is cold, limit your intake of dry and raw items such as nuts, chips, and uncooked vegetable, which all tend to aggravate the body’s nervous system and digestion. Try delicious soups, cooked whole grains, and nourishing stews. Drink plenty of hot tea, such as ginger tea. Find a simple ginger tea recipe here.
Learn more about Vata-balancing foods here.
8. Exhale your stress.
In stressful situations we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Kapalabhati is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the body. Find Kapalabhati instructions in our library.
9. Nurture your senses with aromatherapy and essential oils.
In your home or office, use soothing scents such as orange, lavender, neroli, sandalwood, vanilla, orange, basil, or clove. Performing a relaxing self-massage with sesame or other natural oils is a deeply healing practice that you can treat yourself to every day.