Bring on the holidays! Our mind-body guru, Jenni Tarma shares some tips on how to inspire joy during the holidays! For many of us, the month of December offers time to connect with friends and family, enjoy a well-deserved break from routine, and take time to care both for ourselves and others. While there’s much joy to be found in this time of year, there’s no denying that the holiday season also comes with its own set of challenges (traveling with small children, anyone?), and navigating the chaos can certainly take its toll. Ideally, we’d all like to a) stay on the ball, but b) relax enough to actually enjoy the proceedings. While this might sound like a contradiction, a mindful approach does make it possible to balance the two apparent opposites and meet in the middle. In the whirlwind of the holiday season, it’s all about keeping a steady foothold in the present moment, but also going with the flow as necessary. Here are three easy techniques that I like to deploy as needed to not only stay sane, but actually bring joy into everyday life in a meaningful and sustainable way. Don’t go nuts with food By which I mean, don’t go too far towards either extreme end of the scale where diet stuff is concerned. Yes, there are endless boozy holiday parties; yes, you’re surrounded by crazy amounts of rich food; and yes, it’s basically futile to try to resist a well-assembled cheese plate. As with anything else, balance is key: give yourself permission to enjoy some treats without going overboard. You already know that putting away the whole wheel of brie won’t leave you feeling fantastic anyway. A hearty, whole food breakfast is an easy and effective anti-bingeing strategy when you know you’re going to be tempted: an Earnest Eats hot cereal cup, for example, provides the fiber and protein necessary to keep you feeling full and energized, and reduces the likelihood of caving in to that third helping of pie. A balanced approach to diet sets you up for a win-win situation: you won’t feel as though you’re depriving yourself, AND you can pat yourself on the back for showing a decent amount of self-restraint. Most importantly, when you do decide to enjoy some delicious food, enjoy it for real: no need for guilt-trips, furtive calorie-counting, or self-deprecating comments. Donate some time… This is one of those weird, slightly counterintuitive things: just like exercising actually gives you more energy, donating a little bit of time makes your own time seem more plentiful, too. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, and the person on the receiving end will always be grateful. In fact, when donated in a thoughtful manner, your time is one of the most useful and valuable things that you can give. Some ideas: offer to look after a stressed-out relative’s kids so she can do her Christmas shopping. Water someone’s house plants while they’re out of town, or volunteer to feed the homeless at a local shelter. Check in with an elderly neighbor to see if they need help setting up their Christmas tree, or picking up groceries. Helping others, aside from the obvious benefit to the recipient, is also a gift to yourself, as it feeds directly into feelings of appreciation and gratitude for what you already have. The team at Earnest Eats, for example, get the good vibes going by volunteering their time with the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees re-establish their lives and find financial security here in the U.S. If you’d like to donate your time but are stumped for ideas, try connecting with a local Time Bank (www.timebanks.com). Their nationwide network provides an easy way to reach out to members of your community and help with whatever resource you happen to have, time included. … but take some time for yourself, too. In my mind’s eye, my Christmas vacation consists of sipping tea, reading on the couch, going on leisurely hikes with my boyfriend, and zero occasions that require me to wear anything fancier than sweatpants. The reality is often a little different though, since meals don’t cook themselves and visiting relatives occasionally need at least some form of entertainment. But no matter what demands are placed on you over the holidays, be sure to recharge your own batteries and take time for yourself, too. You’re not being selfish; quite the opposite, in fact. Feeling rested and centered enables us to share our best selves with everyone else around us. With this sentiment in mind, set aside a little time to enjoy what is unquestionably my favorite yoga pose of all time (demonstrated above): put your legs up a wall, and just lay there for as long as you feel like. When it comes to relieving physical and mental tension, this pose has all the bases covered: it soothes tired legs and feet, decompresses the spine, gently stretches tight hamstrings, integrates the hip joints, relaxes the shoulders, opens the chest, and quiets a frazzled mind. Elevating the legs above the heart is proven to lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure, thereby tangibly reducing the physical symptoms of stress. While you’re here, take a couple of deep breaths as well: this stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system. In laymen’s terms, this is simply letting your body know that it’s safe to switch from an adrenaline-driven fight-or-flight state into a more relaxed, rest-and-digest mode. The easiest way to get set up is to lay on your side, scoot your butt up to the wall, and roll onto your back as you swing your legs up. (If your hamstrings feel very tense here, move away from the wall a little). Chill for as long as feels good, and emerge feeling like a new and improved version of yourself! Happy Holidays!
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