Happy Solstice! Here we are in the crunch of things when tensions can rise and stress can build. With all the hoopla and excitement, it's easy to forget about self care and talking the time to focus on our mental and physical health.
Even once the excitement of the season wears off, winter itself can be a little stressful. In order to keep on top of the winter stress and the drain of the season, I like to practice a few free and easy self care routines. If there is chaos around you, there are ways to find a little bit of serenity and peace that will extend into the New Year.
Finding Peace of Mind
- CREATE A RITUAL - Write up a loose routine of the things you want to accomplish each day. Recently my friend Sasha shared a list of the daily rituals she wanted to actualize in order of when to do them - morning to evening. This is a great reference for you to look to, and helps brings normalcy in what can be a chaotic time of year. A basic holiday morning routine I try to follow looks something like this:
- Wake up at 6 a.m. | Set an intention | Do 45 minutes yoga | Breathing exercises | Drink lemon water | Drink less coffee | Have a hearty breakfast | Dry brush prior to shower | Make the bed | Read emails
- MOVE SLOWLY- In Ayurvedic tradition this is the Vata time of year which focuses more on moving slowly. Having time in the morning to wake up at a gentle pace, and having more of a methodical pace in your morning routine, will help set the tone of your day. While having time in the morning can seem like a luxury for those who work and have small children, even those few extra moments that can be found will help reduce daily stress and feelings of being rushed. For over eight years I worked at 5 a.m., and at that time I would rise an extra half an hour before I needed to ensure that I had time for daily stretches and to eat breakfast. The days when I rose early and slowed down were always better than the ones when I felt rushed.
- HAVE A DIGITAL FAST - We all know that looking at screens in the evening can mess with the circadian rhythms that produce melatonin, but digital media can also be stressful and bring up certain “lesser-than feelings” we don’t have space for during the holidays, or any time. Plus, this is the time of year to spend time with those you love, so limiting phone time will feel like a great mental cleanse.
- TAKE TIME TO RECOVER - There are always so many parties, get-togethers, and obligations around this time of year, so take the time you need to recover from these events by staying in or skipping some parties altogether. Remember, you don’t need to say yes to all of them.
Nourishing Your Body
- DRESS APPROPRIATELY FOR THE WEATHER - The simplest thing you can do this time of year is wear appropriate clothing. It’s easy to get caught up with ideas of looking a certain way, but being cold often makes us miserable and irritated. Plus, having to maintain your body temperature when you’re chilled runs you down, so pull out that scarf and toque and bundle up.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP - Ensuring you get enough sleep is crucial to your immune system’s well being, and getting sick this time of year can be an added stress. Create a nighttime routine, if you don’t already have one, to ensure that you have a restful night’s sleep. For example, pick a time to start to get ready for bed, and don’t look at screens at least an hour before this time. Choose some relaxing body practice like rubbing oil on your joints and feet, or yoga nidra (this is my favourite one to listen to) to help you calm down.
- WALK IN FRESH AIR - Taking time to get out of stuffy and crowded houses will help clear your head, stretch your legs, and ease that full stomach. Bonus if you feel a little blue this time of year, getting a little sunshine can sometimes help.
- DRINK LOTS OF WARM BEVERAGES - Being cooped up inside this time of year, surrounded by electric or wood heat, can be very drying on the body. Making sure you get enough water can be harder this time of year than in the warmer months, but plenty of room temperature water will keep you from becoming dehydrated and help your body’s fluids run clear (think sinuses and congestion). Beyond water, it’s great to drink lots of warm teas, lemon water upon waking, and the Ayurvedic tea of ½ tsp. each dried ginger, cinnamon, and a pinch of clove.
- EAT WARMING SPICES - Don’t forget - things are in season for a reason. This time of year, vitamin C rich immune boosting fruits and veggies can be found everywhere from oranges to yams, so do yourself a favour and eat what’s in season because your body needs it. This also extends to the warming spices like garlic, ginger, and cinnamon which boost circulation, help digestion, promote sweating, and strengthen your immune system.
- TAKE YOUR VITAMIN D3 - This time of year you cannot naturally get the recommended amount of vitamin D, so making sure you take some supplements is important.
- KEEP YOUR SKIN CARE ROUTINE UP - The combination of the cold outside, the higher consumption of sugar, and the dry indoor heat, can wreak havoc on your skin. Beyond the obvious drinking of water, I like to dry brush each morning to help keep the lymph nodes healthy and shed dry skin. I like to follow this with an evening rub down of face oil, and some calendula salve (recipe here) on my driest spots.
- KNOW YOUR LIMIT - Knowing how far you can go without causing ill effect is crucial. From going out, to how many people come over, to who you buy gifts for. You're more likely having a little more alcohol and sugar than normal, and I'm not here to tell you to skip them. Instead, making sure you're well hydrated (as above) and knowing a happy limit for yourself (like a cookie or two a day, or 4 drinks a week) will allow you to fully partake in the festivities without feeling the effects of a sugar | social | or an alcoholic hangover.
- WORK ON BREATHING - Even if yoga or meditation aren't your jive, you can still work on breathing exercises. While there are a ton of different techniques for different ailments and people, one I like and use most often is Nadi Shodhana (instructions here) where you breath alternating through each nostril. Besides alleviating stress, it brings mental clarity, and balances the left + right sides of the brain.
Feeding Your Soul
- PRACTICE YOUR YOGA + MEDITATION - Practices can take a bit of a back seat come the dark days of winter, but finding the time to focus on the things that help you relax and centered can help clear your mind and make you ready to tackle any task that comes your way.
- PLAN YOUR TIME- More than the daily rituals, this is about planning those stressful holiday situations like the last minute trip to the mall, or the market to stock up on ingredients. If crowds and chaos bring you stress, try to plan to make your trips as early as possible (get there before the shops even open) or just before closing if your schedule doesn't allow you to get there early in the day. Not having to compete with crowds an lineups will be a huge help to avoid unnecessary stress.
- GIVE THANKS TO OTHERS - While this may seems like common sense, I can tell you from years of working in the service industry that people often forget about these simple acts of human kindness when holiday stresses build. No matter if it's simply the person making coffee at your favourite cafe, taking that extra little moment to ask them how they are and to express your thanks with a genuine emotion, will leave you both feeling good. We're all in the same boat.
- FORGIVE YOURSELF - There is no point to beat yourself up over the little things. Yeah you might miss a day at the gym, consume foods you feel for whatever reason you shouldn't, or just stray from your normal path - but this season only happens once a year, so let yourself live a little a take that extra time to forgive yourself. January is always a fresh start.