Stress Management for Holidays

By Siobhan Van Lanen, BA, LMT, CYI

Holidays are a time to celebrate and reconnect with family and friends.  They are also topped with extreme stress levels as people move in a frenzy to accomplish their sky-high to-do lists with obligations and pressures.  The cold, dark season is a time when our bodies’ natural inclination is to rest and slow down with shorter days and longer nights.  Emotional stress from the holidays is triggered from remembering deceased loved ones and holidays past, loneliness, and/or challenging interpersonal relationships.  Symptoms of stress manifest from sleepless nights, headaches, muscle pain, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed with time constraints and responsibilities.

Finding healthy coping behaviors for our stress is essential for over-all well-being.  Deep breathing, concentration/meditation and yoga postures can help bring relaxation to our body and mind, getting us in touch with our inner awareness.   Consider a 10 minute self-care routine to calm nerves, renew energy, and ease pressures from the holiday frenzy.

If we draw our attention inwards, we realize the need to rest and become still. Concentration, meditation on deep abdominal breathing is an effective form of relaxation when we consciously direct our awareness to the rhythmic, repetitive, slow rise and fall of our breath.  When our mind flies forward into the future or backwards into the past, we can softly bring it back to rest its’ one-pointed focus on the breathing pattern.  As we slow the breath, our mind follows the flow of the breath and begins to quiet from the busy mental chatter.

Internal positive self-talk is also a way to manage mental and emotional stress.  Positive affirmations are a practical form of meditation.  Silently repeating to ourselves a phrase or sentence, over and over, can have a soothing effect, improving our mental and emotional well-being.  Creating our own affirmation can be powerful too.  Here is an affirmation for managing anxiety;   “I breathe in compassion and courage into my heart.  I breathe out fear and worry.”

With practice of yoga poses, our energy begins to flow more freely and our breathing deeper and slower.  Gentle, sustained yoga poses allow us to go deep into a stretch, providing muscles time to elongate, release pain and soreness Sitting Forward Bend, Little Boat and Child pose are calming and stretch the lower back and hips.  Supine lying chest openers with a rolled up blanket on the back, support spinal muscles strengthening and warming and softening and opening into the heart area.  Choose a few basic poses that feel good to you and are easy to incorporate into your busy schedule.  Remind yourself that in order to give to others, you must first take care of your basic human needs too, and this means time for rest and rejuvenation.

Establish a consistent mind/body self-care routine considering location, frequency and duration.  Find a place in your home or in nature where you feel comfortable and relaxed, free from distractions.  Commit to practicing everyday throughout the week for at least 10 minutes to manage heightened stress levels during the holidays and feel better.

 Siobhan Van Lanen instructs regular yoga/pilates classes 7am M/W/F, yoga classes 9am second Saturdays, and seasonal workshops in Family Yoga and Partner Yoga and Bodywork at Timberhill Athletic Club in Studio B.