So far we’ve discussed self-care relating to moving your body, sleep, meditation (post from 11/7, part 1), hydration, nourishing foods, and self-compassion (post from 11/14, part 2). This week is Thanksgiving (in the United States) which can be overwhelming for many people. Visiting family, travel, an overabundance of food, and other things can really increase our stress levels. Planning ahead, knowing your audience, and breath work are three things that can help tamp down the overwhelm and help you enjoy your holiday.
1. Planning your schedule
I am queen of the to-do list, I can’t function without one. If you know you have a million things to do and short period of time to do it, I find writing it all down can help you organize your time better. Look at your list and see if there are items that you can do all at once. Maybe in the same store, or the same part of town, maybe you have a chunk of time to do all of the cleaning. When you can get multiple things done at once, rather than having to run to the store 5o separate times, it helps. Alternatively, maybe you only have 15 minutes and can see one job on the list that can get done in that period of time.
Make sure you carve out time for yourself, in between taking care of everyone else. Everything I talked about in my previous 2 posts, like exercise, meditation, hydration, etc, will help you cope with the overwhelm that may arise. Remember, 5 minutes of meditation can make a huge difference in how you feel. Taking a walk around the block can clear your head and help you move out of procrastination. When you put everyone else’s needs above your own, you cannot show up as your best self. Take a few minutes at some point during the day to make yourself a priority. You can even write it on your to-do list.
2. Know Your Audience
For some reason we always expect our holiday dinners and celebrations to be magical. Everyone will get along, there will be no arguments, the kids will behave, etc. We’ve done this before, and things never go according to this magical fantasy. My suggestion is to expect people to be exactly who they are. Uncle Stu will bring up politics, Aunt Lacy will annoy everyone with her dietary rules. The kids will start screaming just as you are ready to sit down to dinner. When you expect these things to happen, you can prepare for them. If they have happened before, they will happen again. People are going to be exactly who they are, even during the holidays. When you expect them to show up and behave like they always do, you can plan accordingly. Think of ways to steer the conversation in other directions. Have things for the kids to do while the adults eat, or do things buffet style. You’ve met your family members before, expect them to be themselves.
While you can’t control the people in your family, you can control your breathing. Anxiety rises when you feel out of control, or your mental focus is on things over which you have not control (like other people’s behaviors). You can always control your breath. There are many ways to breathe that will calm your mind and help ease your anxiety. Here are 3 Pranayama practices that you can do at any time to reset how you feel. 1-3 minutes is all you need. With each of these breathing practices, the breath moves in and out through the nose. These breathing practices can be done seated, standing, lying down, really in any comfortable position.
a. Dirga Breath
Dirga breathing is a 3 part breath where you completely fill and empty the body with air. Place your hands on your lower abdomen so that as you inhale, you can feel the belly expand, and as you exhale, you feel it contract and empty. Next place your hands on your lower ribs and as you inhale feel your rib cage expand, then exhale to feel it contract and empty. Finally bring your hands to your chest, feeling it rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Putting those 3 parts together is Dirga Breath. Inhale to fill the belly, then the ribcage, then the chest. Exhale to empty the belly, then the ribcage, then the chest. Move the air in and out through the nose, keeping the jaw relaxed. 3-5 breaths like this will help you feel energized and calm. Return to normal breathing and notice the effects.
b. Box Breath
Box breathing is a metered breath, where you inhale for the count of 4, hold the breath in for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, then hold the breath out for the count of 4. Let the 4 count be even, steady and comfortable. You don’t need to completely fill the body with breath, like with the Dirga Breath. Inhale a comfortable amount, and exhale the same amount of breath. Keep the body relaxed while you breathe. Breathe like this for 2-5 minutes, or as long as you need. Return to normal breathing and notice how you feel.
c. Alternate Nostril Breath
This one takes a little coordination, but once you have it, it’s relatively simple. Take your dominant hand (I will describe using the right hand, but if you are left-handed, adjust accordingly), and fold your index and middle fingers toward your palm. You will use your thumb to block off your right nostril and your 4th and 5th fingers to block off your left nostril. Begin by taking a deep breath in through the nose, then back out through the nose. Inhale halfway, then close your right nostril to exhale through the left. Inhale through the left nostril, the switch the fingers to block the left and exhale through the right. Breathe in through the right, switch, breathe out through the left. Continue like this for 8-12 complete rounds. Finish your practice by inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through both. Sit for a few moments afterward to feel the effects.
Click here to watch a video where I guide you through each Pranayama practice.
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Join me online Thanksgiving morning for my annual Flow Before the Feast! 60 minutes of All Levels Vinyasa Yoga followed by 15 minutes of guided meditation to leave you feeling ready to take on the day!
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