It hit me like clockwork this year. I attended my first official holiday party of the season - the classic Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. And it was great fun. And the next day I could barely get out of bed and it wasn’t due to fatigue or a hangover. It was that classic holiday anxiety just starting to take root. I felt just a little bit heavier, and a little less optimistic. I recognized it right away because it visits me every December like it visits so many others at this time each year.
As the day carried on and Hot Yoga class time drew closer, about 37 different and really solid excuses to avoid my planned practice at the evening class cropped up. But I knew that the only thing that could shake this anxiety out, my most effective tool for pulling out that weed before it settled in, was sweating my way through yoga. 60 minutes to clear my head, move my body, and come out the other side in a renewed state of mind. So I changed my clothes, changed my attitude and stepped onto my mat.
I recommend you do the same. I love the holiday season. I enjoy the decorations and the crowds and the special events. I like the parties, dressing up to go out and staying in with family. The smell of the Christmas trees, pine scented candles and even the holiday music on the radio and in the shops warms me up. But these very same things are over stimulating to me as well. It’s like sunshine. I love the feel of the Greek Island sun on my skin in every summer, but if I don’t cover up, I’m going to get that glaring red sunburn and it’s going to hurt. I know this and so I know when and how to cover up. If I get sunburn, it’s my own fault for not taking the necessary precautions. Navigating the holiday season is the same thing. Too much family, too many parties, maybe some sugar overload and straying too far off my routine is where anxiety is queen of my castle. But when I maintain my Hot Yoga practice, my meditation, get enough sleep and take extra alone time to decompress, I remain in control and can suck up the joy of the season.
What do you need this Holiday Season to stave off anxiety or the holiday blues? How can you maximize the fun and joy and mitigate the side effects. Here are a few "favorite things” that work for me:
- Maintain your Hot Yoga practice even when it's inconvenient. I’m always glad I took class. I believe you will be too.
- Take time to wind down at the end of the day before going to bed. If you’ve never meditated before, get started. Begin right before bed time with just 5 minutes of quiet time. Turn off your phone, your television and any other outside stimulants. Wrap up your day with quiet inward reflection. This helps tune your energy in for restful sleep so you feel refreshed upon waking. When the days roll into one another without any space for quiet reflection, you are more likely to feel drained and more prone to the heaviness of the season.
- Go for a walk outside. And don’t talk on your phone or text while you walk! Look around and take in your surroundings instead. Be in the moment! Forced fresh air, especially the cold crisp air in NEPA in December, can work wonders to change your mood. Walk around your neighborhood and enjoy your neighbor’s holiday decorations. Stroll downtown during your lunch break and enjoy the festive window displays. Make this a walking meditation to clear your head.
The “most wonderful time of the year” (according to Any Williams’ Christmas song anyway) goes hand in hand in with the holiday blues. It’s the law of Yin and Yang. We can’t experience one without the other. We must accept that to enjoy the fun this holiday season, the blues and anxiety are just around the corner. But they don’t have to overrule the fun. With the right tools, the seasonal joy and the anxiety can peacefully coexist.