Five Easy and Natural Ways to Calm Holiday Stress
with Sierra Vandervort
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas, Blessed Yule, Happy Hanukkah – joy abounds! Wherever and whatever you are celebrating in the world during this time, I wish you peace and love.
As relaxing as holidays claim to be, they often cause lots of unnecessary stress and grief. Traffic, traveling, finding the “perfect” gift, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Stress is a tricky thing. It seems easy to accumulate but so hard to get rid of. It can pop up out of nowhere and snowball into total havoc if we let it.
If you feel bouts of stress creeping in and tainting your happy holiday high, maybe try these simple techniques to ease your energetic self. These exercises can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours, see what you have time for and what your body truly needs. Sometimes it’s the moments when we think we have no time for ourselves that we need it the most.
You know by now that a consistent yoga practice can help increase your flexibility, muscle tone and cardiovascular health, but the additional mental benefits of yoga can also be pretty stellar. Try some of these restorative yoga postures to counteract the hectic holiday energy.
Supported Child’s Pose: A yoga bolster works best here, but if you don’t have one you can use a few longer pillows and folded blankets. Just find a height that’s comfortable and will support your body! Sit back on your heels and spread your knees wide. Snuggle your bolster in between the knees and take a deep breath in. Lengthen through the crown of the head and slowly lower your belly down to the bolster. Find a comfortable, neutral position for your hands. Rest one cheek on the bolster and take nice deep breaths. Close the eyes if you feel comfortable. Settle in. after 4 – 6 minutes switch the direction of your neck so the other cheek is face down. Repeat on this side. Slowly come back to center and sit back up when you’re ready.
Supported Fish Pose: Move your bolster so it sits right at the base of the spine and the top of the sacrum. Extend your legs out long and let the spine fall back on the bolster. You can roll an extra blanket up as a pillow for extra head support if you’d like. Let the shoulders fall to the earth as the heart opens towards the sky. You can keep the legs stretched out long or bring the soles of the feet together and let the knees open up. Close the eyes and take deep, steady breaths. Remain here for as long as you need to.
If you’re interested in trying a full restorative yoga class, there are some awesome, free, online classes from Yoga by Candace, Allie the Journey Junkie and tons more. Or you can come check out the restorative classes we have to offer at Balance in New Orleans.
Pranayama is the ancient art of breath control used in yogic traditions to extend one’s prana or “life force.” While there are pranayama techniques to increase energy, we’re more interested in stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest-and-digest” function.
First start with a natural breathing rhythm. Find a comfortable, upright position and close your eyes. Release any force or manipulation behind the breath. Just allow it to flow naturally and smoothly. When you feel you are ready to begin, take a big breath in for a count of four. Allow to belly to fill up first, then the chest. Once you reach the top of your inhale, hold your breath for a count of three. Then slowly begin to exhale for a count of eight (double the count of the inhale). If you have a greater lung capacity, you can increase these numbers to a practice that suits you. No matter where you are, always try to make your exhales twice as long as your inhales.
Repeat the exercise 7 – 10 times, breathing smoothly and deeply. Once you’ve finished return to your normal breath. Keep your eyes closed and take a quick scan of the body and the mind. How do you feel?
Find Your Ritual
Ritualistic practices look different for everybody. The most important thing is that it makes you feel calm and centered. Pick activities that light you up inside – that seem to come from a place deep within you. Whatever you choose to do – make it a big she-bang. Give yourself the time to do it fully. This is your time to come back to yourself and recharge your batteries. This is your gift to yourself. This is your ritual.
First remove yourself from your distractions. Put your phone in the other room, ask your roommates not to bother you, dim the lights, light some candles, maybe play some of your favorite relaxing music. From there it’s all up to you. Maybe you want to take this time for your yoga practice. Maybe you’re a dancer / hooper and make this your movement meditation. Maybe you’d like to set up an altar – a special place of sacred energy for you to come back to. Take a bath, write a poem, play your instrument, draw tarot, write in your journal, color, sing, meditate – do whatever your body is telling you to do.
It doesn’t have to be serious, it just has to be sincere and intentional. Notice what you’re doing, how it makes you feel, and how it may affect how you go back to your normal routine.
Destress with Herbs
Herbal tea is a great way to gently settle the body’s energy and get some natural medicine in you. Chamomile tea is a great tasting and naturally effective way to promote relaxation and fight anxiety. Chamomile is one of my favorite realxing herbs to use, and it’s fairly easy to grow at home! Check out this article from Happy DIY Home if you want to grow your own chamomile plant!
If you don’t have time or aren’t in a position to sit and drink a full cup of tea, try an herbal tincture. Tinctures are herbal distillations made with grain alcohol. They can be used quickly and easily at any time. Some of my favorite and trusted herbal brands are Rowan + Sage and my local apothecary.
Give the Gift of Presence
The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration, spending time with loved ones and relaxing. Pagan traditions see this time of the year as a time of hibernation, collecting our energy back to ourselves, and honoring our blessings and loved ones. Somewhere along the way we interpreted that to mean commercialized madness and self-induced anxiety over one specific day.
There’s a lot to be overwhelmed by, but try focusing on all the magickal goodness that comes with this time. Those little moments of peace and joy that might otherwise have slipped away – relish in them. Give yourself fully to the people and events that are in front of you. Take note of your stress – but ask yourself if it’s truly serving you.
You can let the impermanence of stress sweep you away, or can you step aside, take a breath, and see yourself in the bigger picture.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and stress-free holiday.
xX Blessed Be Xx
Yoga + Wellness Teacher
In my yoga teaching, we connect the body and the breath as a form of emotional and spiritual self-care. Through this connection, we embody compassion, joy and strength for ourselves & others.
In my astrology and seasonal connection teachings, we tune in to the energies of nature to inspire harmony & optimal growth in our daily lives!