Yogis’ Guide to Christmas Holiday Stress
Now with even more deep breathing (and parentheses!)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Well, if we look beyond the sleigh rides (not difficult, sleigh rides being a pretty niche pastime these days) and the hot chocolate (make ours with foamed oat milk, cacao nibs, and coconut sugar, m’kay?) (wait, is this whole ‘holiday season’ thing just propaganda for winter?! Winter has amazing PR!) it turns out that the holidays are quite stressful for many, a source for conflict for others, and downright depressing for more than a few.
But listen, you haven’t been down-dogging your heart out and breathing into your perineum all year for nothing. We’re always saying that what you do on the mat prepares you for dealing with all life’s difficulties off the mat. Now may be just the time to run a little double-blind-peer-reviewed study (anecdotally speaking) on how well that works when we put it into practice. For example:
Your shopping list has gotten way out of hand. In order to pay for all these gifts, you’re going to have to dig into your yoga retreat piggy bank. Well, guess what, you are not sacrificing that week in Peru. Machu Picchu waits for no (wo)man!
Before yoga, you might have maxed out your credit cards or sacrificed your self-care budget. But yoga teaches us when to say when. You’ve learned that pushing your body beyond its limit isn’t healthy. The same goes for your bank account.
After yoga, you have the tools to see that you have options. For instance, you can:
A. Have a frank conversation with your sisters and your cousins and your aunts, in which you suggest a secret Santa with handmade gifts or a book swap.
B. Hit Pinterest hard for some craft or baking inspiration.
C. Book Peru for the last two weeks of December.
2. Family Conflict
We love them. We hate them. We hate that we love them: It’s our families! Spending time with the folks on their turf (maybe even sleeping in your unredecorated childhood bedroom) has a way of causing some, um, regression, and bringing up old issues that you’re usually mature enough to avoid. The perspective of yoga helps you unpack that baggage faster than the bullet train from whence you came.
Before yoga, you may have succumbed to the temptation of The Airing of Grievances. And while there is a time and a place for such airings (hint: it’s therapy!), they are best avoided between the starter and main at the holiday dinner table.
After yoga, the inevitable family clash of the Titans no longer seems inevitable. For instance:
A. You have choices. You can choose to be neither provoked nor provoking. Meditation has taught you how to be the observer of your own thoughts. Nothing puts things in perspective like looking into your own head with objective detachment.
B. Did we promise deep breathing? We did! Now would be an excellent time to neutralize your fight or flight response with a little extra oxygen to the parasympathetic nervous system.
C. Your family doesn’t live in Peru! *
3. Food shame
The holidays offer plenty of opportunities for all our issues around food to rear up. One person may give you flack if you eat dessert, another may do the same if you don’t (see family conflict, above).
Before yoga, this pressure to please may have led to a spiral of food shame that could cast a real sense of dread around the holiday season.
But yoga has helped put your body in the driver’s seat when it comes to what you eat. Now you can feel ok saying no and also ok with yes. To negotiate this minefield with grace, consider:
A. Sticking to your routines. Exercise, sleep, and eat on your normal schedules.
B. Listening to your body. It’s ok to say no to anything you don’t want to eat or drink. A simple “no, thank you” should suffice.
It’s also ok to have the seasonal treats that you enjoy. Everything in moderation is your new holiday motto. And if you feel you’re slipping into being overly restrictive or, conversely, into overeating, revert to your routines to regulate your system (see A).
C. We hear they have great quinoa in Peru!
All kidding aside, we really believe that yoga helps give you the tools for living a healthier life, both mentally and physically. So if the holidays hit you hard, hit your mat. You’ll get through this together.
*If your family happens to live in Peru, consider Thailand!