Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or Dōngzhì, or no religious-cultural festival at all, the month of December in the Northern Hemisphere can be a stressful time of year. Winter is starting to hit hard, the hours of light dwindling down to their shortest, and the temperature is dropping. Additional stresses can wear us down; such as family or work social obligations, exams, deadlines, trip-planning, depleting finances, and attempts at tying up our own loose ends or goals for the year. Our hibernation impulse kicks in, and we want to stay inside where it’s warm and snack on comfort food.
Acknowledge your stress
Sometimes we can get so caught up in all these activities we don’t realize we’re wearing ourselves down or getting irritated in the process. Once you acknowledge and recognize that stress is indeed affecting your mood or sleep cycle, you can give yourself permission to slow down, take breaks or drop things with less priority. It may seem counter-productive to schedule more things in, but adding some regular breaks, and things that are for ‘you’ to your schedule, will make the other stressful items on your list seem easier. You can look forward to the little present you give yourself – your Friday evening acupuncture session or swing dance class.
Eat Hearty Warm Food
Being on the go all the time can deplete our resources and zap our body of nutrition. It’s more important than ever during stressful times to eat well. There are a lot of sweet treats around this time of year, which fill us up without providing nutrition. Depending on where you live, you might also feel more dehydrated because of cold weather. Also, according to Ayurvedic nutrition, our bodies need more Vata energy during the cold winter months. They recommend eating more heated root vegetables, rather than raw salads. You can save time by making large batches of soup or stew. If you spend most of your time away from home glass jars can provide a DIY alternative to a thermos in order to carry around your delicious hearty lunch.
Breath and Movement
Outdoor activities in the cold can be quite exhilarating if you’re prepared for it. Wrap yourself up in a warm scarf and wear loose clothing made with natural fibres. One misconception most people have in countering the cold is to hunch their shoulders up by their ears and round forwards. This actually makes us colder! If you open up your chest and drop your shoulders down, your lung capacity increases and allows more oxygen to enter and warm up your body! If you breathe deeply and slowly or take slight pauses as you hold the breath in, it helps to keep the warm air in longer. Keep your body moving by riding a bike or walking quickly. And when you reach your destination do some gentle stretches to come back to the warmth of the inside temperature.
A regular yoga or meditation practice helps to recuperate us from stress. Keep going to your yoga class, despite your busy schedule. Or even add a new one!
And remember, as the daylight hours grow shorter, the actual Winter Solstice on December 21st is approaching, which means the daylight hours will start to increase again!
And as the New Year is shortly upon us, so is our new yoga schedule for 2014.