Yoga & Meditation

How to practice self-care during the holiday season

Amanda Erickson RMT

Our Western world and busy lives tell us that our productivity is a measure of our success. We are conditioned to believe we must show up, persevere, and keep going; no matter what.  

However, when we observe nature at this time of year, everything slows down. Squirrels have stashed their treasures, the birds fly south, and creatures hibernate until the warmth of spring returns.  Yet here we are running around like there’s never enough time in the day.

I have been experimenting with what it means to listen to my nervous system. I  crave the slow days and evenings at home.  Like nature, this time of year has me turning inwards. I want to curl up beside a fireplace with a pile of knitting and endless pots of tea, all while my brain says, “Go! Holidays are around the corner. Prepare! Do more!”

The looming holiday season is full of events, to-do’s, and social commitments. Often it can feel overwhelming. Tune into yourself and listen to what aligns you as you navigate times of busyness.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1.     Manage your schedule

Physically scheduling in my self-care time is a great help and a huge start to the process. Treating your body to a massage or acupuncture is a great way to turn down the heightened nervous system at this time of year, and to let that unneeded shoulder tension dissipate. Take a new yoga class, or get a session with a kinesiologist, physiotherapist, or other health professional to get the support you need.

 

2.     Get outside

 Take a walk in nature, even if it's just stepping outside your office or front door for a stroll around the block. Notice the beautiful details of nature; take it all in, and relish in the present moment.

 

3.     Slow down

Take five deep, nourishing breaths. Try this before you leave the house for work, or before you head out to tackle that list of to-do’s. Try a few minutes of meditation of savasana (corpse pose) to slow the mind.

 

4.     Cultivate gratitude

Write down five things you are grateful for in this moment. Focussing on what you’re grateful for helps give you perspective and realize all that you currently have.

 

From my experience, when we tune into self we can use our time more efficiently. The above options have proven to me that when we prioritize turning towards alignment of heart, mind, and body, the to-do list becomes checked off, and the time to accomplish it is all there.  Taking just a few extra moments to turn inwards with ourselves gives us more time in return.

'Tis the Season...to unwind?

Acupuncture, Lucy Mei Lee

We are quickly approaching the holiday season including Winter Solstice, which officially marks the longest night of the year and the return of the lengthening days.  In Chinese medicine, we consider winter to be a time for restoration and going inwards in opposition to summer when the abundance of sunshine gets us moving and wanting to be outdoors.  That may seem easy as the weather makes staying inside a little more tempting, but it may be harder than you realize.

Acupuncture, Lucy Mei Lee

    This idea of waxing and waning energies is described as “Yin and Yang Theory”, which is portrayed in this iconic black and white symbol.  In this theory, everything is divided up into relative “yin” and relative “yang” categories which work together to mutually oppose as well as support each other.  You cannot have one value without the other: up/down, in/out, left/right, male/female etc.  Daytime belongs to yang (brightness, movement) and nighttime belongs to yin (darkness, stillness), which means that winter is the most yin time of year.  What does this mean for our health and well-being?         

It means that during winter, taking time to be quiet and reflective is even more essential.  That certainly can be challenging amongst all the demands of the season to shop, socialize, decorate etc.  While these kinds of activities help to bring brightness on the darkest of days, we must remember to honour that inner calling to slow down and regenerate as well.  So many other animals are hibernating right now and I’m sure many of you have felt the temptation to curl up in the blankets just a little bit longer.  So, I would encourage you to do so and stop judging yourself for it; sleep a little longer, read a few more pages of that book, sit quietly in a chair and take an internal inventory or review of your year. 

You might be pleasantly surprised how taking it a little easy now can set you up for a better health in the spring

While there is a real concern for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is well addressed in many articles out there with helpful tips including Dr Marita Schauch’s (here),  we must also remember that there is a natural decrease in sunlight occurring that may be affecting our energy levels.  With that in mind, ease up on how much you are demanding of yourself right now and be sure to check in with yourself on how many events you can realistically do comfortably.  You might be pleasantly surprised how taking it a little easy now can set you up for a better health in the spring.

I also encourage everyone to make sure you have things to look forward to this winter season.  Perhaps a yoga or meditation class is just what you need to set aside some quiet time to go within.  A counselling session could also help put things into perspective.  My patients find that acupuncture is wonderful way to recharge your batteries and let go of stress.  There are so many “shoulds” at this time of year, make sure you add something in for yourself, now or in the New Year. 

Happy holidays everyone.