Achieve Holiday Ease in 3 Easy Steps that You Can Do Anywhere!
It’s finally that time of year. The holiday season has started and I have been itching to get my house looking and smelling like a shrine to all things festive and Christmassy since Halloween (some might call it an obsession but I prefer passion ☺). The winter and holiday candles (including my favorite “Fresh Balsam” from Bath and Body Works) have already crept out of their spot in the closet, the twinkly lights have been hung, and the tree has been decorated. I also have Michael Bublé’s and Kacey Musgrave’s Christmas albums on repeat, much to my husband’s annoyance.
As you can tell, Christmas is my favorite holiday mostly because it just smells so good! The second I smell the fresh pine of the Christmas tree, I get transported back to when I was a kid decorating my childhood home for the holidays with my sisters and parents. It is a time for families and friends to gather and create memories surrounded by comforting scents of familiar home cooked meals, bright decorations, and so much laughter. It is a great time of the year but, as much fun as the holidays can be, they can also provoke and cause significant stress and anxiety. Whether it is financial issues (gifts for close and extended family, friends, and Secret Santa at work? There goes my savings account…), travelling, family disputes, or staying on track with your health goals, the Holidays can test anyone’s patience and sanity. So, I have created a list of 3 simple tools to help de-stress and calm your nerves next time you feel the need to run and hide under the covers (like when your grandma asks you for the fifth time about your dating life).
1. Belly Breath
You might be thinking: “really Christina, breathing? That is your revolutionary tip to de-stress? I breathe all the time and I am not feeling very ‘zen’ over here.” That might be true but there is a way to use your breathing to calm your nervous system, elevate your metabolism, reduce acute anxiety, and improve your heart health.
Right now, take a second to evaluate how you are breathing. Do you only feel your chest expanding every time you inhale? Or is your chest and belly moving with each breath? Most people take shallow breaths, which only causes the chest to rise and fall (maybe the ribs to expand as well). They also tend to tighten their stomachs and won't let it expand along with the breath so that it remains flat. This type of short breath activates the sympathetic nervous system (our bodies “fight or flight” response) and stress hormones (cortisol) are released into our blood system. However, when you take deep breaths, which involves the diaphragm and belly to move with your inhales and exhales, you igniting the parasympathetic nervous system (a.k.a the rest and digest response). This type of deep breathing is called “diaphragmatic breathing” (since the diaphragm is engaged) or “belly breath” and it stimulates our body’s relaxation response. It allows your entire nervous system to calm down and is very effective when you find yourself in a stressful situation. It increases the oxygen in your body to nourish your cells, decreases your risks of stress-related illnesses (cardiovascular issues, digestive upsets, sleep disruptions etc.), and can even help increase your metabolism. It seriously works like magic!
Try it for yourself: place your hand on your stomach and feel it expand and deflate as you breathe deeply through your nose. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6. Repeat 3 times. How to do feel? Do you sense a change in your mindset?
Like breathing, you body craves movement everyday. Now, I don’t mean that you have to go and spend hours at the gym a day to help feel more relaxed around the holidays. However, I do encourage you to get up and moving in some way by doing something that you enjoy. I no longer tell myself that I “have” to exercise everyday but instead focus on doing active tasks. This shift in my mindset helped me lessen the pressure I used to feel about being “perfect” when it comes to exercising (having to work out everyday).
Moving around can be as simple as taking your puppy for a walk around the neighborhood, walking around the mall while you catch up with friends while sipping on something warm, taking your kids/grandkids/nieces or nephews to a local park, or even playing in your own backyard. The weather here in Florida has finally reached bearable conditions and it is so nice to be outside and not melt away. I try to take our 10-month old puppy, Kyra, to walk around a nearby lake as often as possible. As I work from home, it’s nice to get out of the house and we both get to stretch our legs.
Just by getting up and off the couch, you’ll satisfy your body’s desire to move, which helps reduce anxiety, ignites your digestion, and will help you get a better night sleep.
This is an important tip that you can integrate into your life anytime of the year. Over this past year I have learned just how powerful taking care of myself can be for my overall well-being and my confidence. Including self care into my daily routine has completely changed my outlook and it doesn’t take a lot of effort! All you need to do is to designate some time, whether it is 10 minute meditation session, a longer shower at night, taking a yoga class, or turning off your phone for some social media downtime.
I can’t speak for all women, but I can see how we often put the needs of others before our own. I do it and I have found that by taking care of myself, I am better equipped to love and help the people around me. It has also helped me feel more connected with myself and I feel so much better in my own skin.
I hope these tips are helpful as the holiday parties and festivities approach! Please let me know in the comments below if you have other tips to share.
I wish you all a joyous season and I hope it is filled with laughter, family, and delicious food ☺ Stay tuned for next week’s post as it will deal with creating and achieving your New Year's resolutions like the badass you are!