With the holiday season in full force, many of us will be both excited and stressed: the list of holiday to-do’s can overwhelm us. Follow these simple steps to decrease holiday stress.
The holidays are a time of celebration and gathering with family and friends, a time to remember and appreciate our many blessings. Our society puts too much emphasis on the gift giving and eating aspect of the holidays. This can lead to weight gain, as well as anger-filled and sometimes fatal holiday shopping. What ever happened to simple acts of kindness and appreciating time spent with loved ones? With the holiday season in full force, many of us will be both excited and stressed: the list of holiday to-do’s can overwhelm us.
It is an interesting dynamic when we look how the seasons have an impact on our energy level. The days are getting shorter and darker as we approach the winter solstice. The sun is the energizer for all living things. Therefore, we must conserve and focus our energy during the winter. It is a time to go inward and refuel, like the bears in hibernation. However, our schedules are full of holiday shopping, travel, and parties. As a result we often tend to overextend ourselves and become overwhelmed. This opposition, as well as the family conflicts some experience, can lead to holiday stress.
In the fitness industry, we often see a decline in yoga class sizes and gym numbers in December and a huge increase in January following the New Year’s resolutions. However between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the time we need to exercise and meditate the most. As we all know, exercise can combat the extra pounds as well as increase endorphins to make us feel more vibrant and happy. Meditation is also key to enhancing a sense of joy and peace. When we feel we have no time for ourselves is when we need that time the most.
This holiday season make time for you, even if it is just twenty minutes of exercise and five to ten minutes of meditation. This sacred time is well spent and necessary for your wellbeing. Remember the bears that are hibernating all winter. I like to think of them as meditating so when they awaken they have a renewed sense of clarity and energy.
A simple breathing meditation to restore peace of mind:
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart
Observe your normal breathing for a few moments
Gradually increase the volume of breath
Inhale one-third into the belly, one-third into the ribs (expanding to the sides), and one-third up toward the collarbones
Hold the breath for a moment
Exhale smoothly and evenly
Hold the breath out for a moment
Add the mindfulness mantra: “I am breathing in” as you inhale, “I am breathing out” as you exhale
Continue for five to ten minutes
As thoughts or emotions arise, just observe them. It will be as though you are watching a cloud passing in the sky with a sense of detachment. This will give you a big-picture view of situations in your life. By observing without reacting to the thoughts and emotions that come to the surface, you are better able to handle them and see a solution.
The age old saying “take a deep breath” is a wise one and has proven true since ancient times. Do this meditation every morning or before encountering a possible stressful environment. Think of this time as your daily hibernation to bring you back into balance.
Location, Location, Location
Many of us will be crammed into stores and surrounded by friends and family. Does that mean that we can’t meditate? Do we need to meditate in a quiet place free from all distractions, or can we meditate anywhere, anytime, any place? I believe it’s possible to meditate even when there’s noise all around you.
Many years ago I attended my wife’s high school reunion. I didn’t know many people from her high school because we’d grown up in different parts of the country. Meanwhile, she wanted to enjoy conversations with her friends. We were in a room with a band playing and many people talking and laughing.
I was sitting quietly, giving my wife the opportunity to socialize, and I decided to see if I could meditate even when surrounded by noise. I could clearly hear the the band and the conversations around me.
I kept my eyes open and I was able to go into a meditative state without anyone knowing. I managed to relax while she enjoyed herself. I pleasantly surprised myself because, up until that point, I had never been in an atmosphere like this.
My life normally is rather quiet, so I’ve never really had the opportunity to try meditating under circumstances such as a high school reunion. If I can do it, then anyone can. All it takes is practice, determination, and dedication.
Hear the Silence in the Noise
Many people live in large cities, have large families, or maybe live in a noisy house. You may wonder, “How do I meditate with all that activity going on around me?”
At home, I have an area set aside in the middle of my house to meditate. I never ask my family to be quiet. If the television is on or the music is playing, I don’t ask my family members to be quiet, I just meditate. How is that possible? The key is to listen to the silence amongst the noise. Allow me to explain.
Imagine that you were in a room. The room you’re in right now may have chairs, a television, and tables. Or if you’re in the car, there’s the steering wheel, the seats, and the console. In both of these places, while there are things around you, there is also space. I compare this space to silence. Find the silence among the noise. Find the silence in the noise. The background in which the noise is taking place is silence. Be present with that silence. Focus on the silence, be attentive, and be present with it.
If you live in a big city you may hear cars honking outside and people making noises as they walk by. But what about all the emptiness, all the space around you? Go to that emptiness, that silence, and space.
Noise Is a Bug Bite
When a mosquito bites us, we tend to scratch the bite right away because it itches. But scratching actually makes the bite grow bigger and more bothersome. On the other hand, if you ignore the itch, it eventually goes away. Similarly, I encourage you to ignore the noise around you. This doesn’t mean you push it away. Rather, you acknowledge that it’s there and then get back to your breath. Breathe deeply, breathe slowly, and when your mind notices to the noises around you, simply return to your breath, your mantra, or your prayer word.
Another little trick I use is headphones with music or a guided meditation. While you may still be able to hear the noises around you, your main focus will be on the music, your breath, or your guided meditation.
Keep in mind that your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Throughout the day, we listen to a conversation, move our attention to a noise, go back to a thought, or whatever the distraction may be. Meditation is about focusing on one thing and staying there, staying focused.
The Mall Is Your Meditation Hall
Wherever you are, you can transform it into a place to meditate. You don’t need to have the perfect surroundings. Just focus on your breath, your prayer word, or your mantra. When your mind’s distracted by external noises, just return to your breath. After all, even if you’re in a very quiet place, your mind can be just as loud as if you were in a loud room. Don’t fight your surroundings. Instead, acknowledge them and return to your breath. Concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, slowly and deeply.
With consistent practice, you’ll find that no matter where you are, no matter what circumstances are occurring in your life, you can still meditate each and every day. Remember you can meditate anywhere, anytime. As result of taking time to meditate even during the holiday rush, you may find yourself experiencing more peace of mind and less stress.
Have happy and peaceful holidays!