The holidays are upon us! Can you feel it? Nostalgia, merriment, unity and joy — and the slow creep of exhaustion tempting the inevitable breakdown.
For many people, this season can be a stormy time. High emotions start brewing off the coast of Thanksgiving and make landfall right around Christmas. By New Years, instead of feeling refreshed and energized, we feel depleted and depressed. The holidays bring about a lightness — but also a heaviness.
So how do we weather the holiday season and maintain our balance? I have some tips, but first let’s understand what’s going on.
Starting in early winter, the earth and all its creatures go into accumulation mode. The squirrels squirrel away their winter supplies, the bears hibernate, and us humans hunker down for the next few months of darkness and cold.
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, this is “vata” season: the time of year where we bulk up and slow down to counter the raw, erratic nature of late fall and early winter. Without counter measures like deep sleep and nourishing comfort foods, we too can become ungrounded and erratic. However, if we aren’t careful too much accumulation can bog down our system and lead to impaired immunity, depressed mood, and stagnant digestion — all symptoms of the heavier “kapha” season that follows in late winter / early spring.
Most of us are unaware of our sensitive equilibrium and add to the natural frenetic energy of the season by foregoing our normal routines for parties, hangovers, and end of the year deadlines. We attempt to ground ourselves by overindulging in rich seasonal foods and gulp down our emotions with sweet festive drinks. And all the while irritability and depression accumulates within only to burst forth at the worst. possible. time.
So how do we avoid the holiday meltdown?
Tip One: Move your bod.
From now until New Years, make it a priority to move your limbs every day. Ideally, outside in the crisp, fresh air — even if it’s a quick 5 minute stroll. This will counter stagnation, ignite your metabolism, and burn through mental fogginess and physical lethargy.
Tip Two: Balance rich food and alcohol intake.
I’m not going to tell you not to enjoy your favorite holiday goodies — but the goal is to feel merry and light, not bloated and backed-up, so some tempering is required.
Put your efforts where they will be most effective. Denying Aunt Carol’s famous desert is unrealistic and no fun, so instead take advantage of where you have the most control. When it’s not a special occasion, opt for homemade meals or veggie-heavy menu items. Travel with real-food snacks to avoid gross airport food. Plan ahead and commit to one healthy meal a day when visiting family (breakfast is your best bet since you have more willpower in the beginning of the day). The trick is to enjoy without going overboard.
Tip Three: Go to sleep!
Sleep is everything. It is the salve to a bad mood and the actual fountain of youth. As best you can, go to bed early and bask in a full 8 hours of serious restoration. It’s the only way to make it out of the holidays with your immune system intact.
Tip Four: Take a shower and put on new clothes.
Yes, really. I don’t want to ruin the fun of cozy pajama days, but if you’re looking to avoid full holiday meltdown, it’s best to get up, scrub away the previous day’s grime, and put on some fresh clothes. You will literally feel the heaviness of yesterday wash away — and then you can go back to relaxing.
Tip Five: Spend some time alone… with your thoughts.
The scariest tip of all! But worth it. You can journal, meditate, or go on a nice walk sans people or podcasts (see tip one). Attempt to identify the emotions you are feeling and let them bubble up. You might cry. You may journal out a bunch of angry things. It’s way better than both of those things happening at the dinner table.
Tip Six: Have compassion — for yourself and others.
Each of us is surrounded by our own little storm of personal dramas, perceptions, and sensitivities. When we bring these individual storms together, sometimes a category 1 turns into a category 4. If you witness a surge, try to have compassion instead of getting sucked in. That person’s personal discomfort is not so different from yours, so take a deep breath, send them peace and love — and then send yourself some too.