This past year went by crazy fast with all of our adventures from Rhode Island to Virginia to New Hampshire and back! While we've been home for a full four months now (I can't believe it's been THAT long already), it seems like life is finally starting to slow back down as we get into the swing of a somewhat more normal (or at least what we consider a more normal) lifestyle than we've had in the past few years.
As I'm always working on balancing my life (always a work in progress); this move back to the island, I can say, has not been the easiest adjustment. The 8 months we spent on the farm were quiet and peaceful and taught us how to stop rushing through life, living as Thoreau set out to live during his excursion in the woods. We learned how to sit back, enjoy the ride, and be grateful for all we have in front of us, taking life and dealing with it as it comes, no matter the obstacle. I spent the greater portion of my time on the farm in solitude with nature. I learned how to appreciate the subtle nuances of being alone.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
From Walden Chapter 2 “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”
Most importantly, I learned how to stop being so anxious for the future.
With the passing of Thanksgiving, our New England holiday season is officially in full swing. For some people, this can be a really stressful time of year. While this is a season for giving and for making others smile, I want to send out a friendly reminder to take care of yourself this season.
Many of us get stressed out trying to balance between this side of the family and that side of the family, seeing friends, staying involved, sending cards and keeping up with the holiday spirit of baking, shopping and giving; that sometimes we end up causing our own stress. Maybe you've already let the stress take hold, or maybe you can foresee it squirming its way into your nervous system. Either way, only YOU have the power to decide on whether you want to spend your holiday season stressed out or care-free.
This list has absolutely helped me in the past, especially last Christmas.
Here's a recap on what went on this time last year:
Our first married Christmas was spent packing and cleaning, in just over a week we would be on our way, 8 hours south and 3 hours inland from the only place either of us had ever had the privilege of calling home. Instead of a Christmas tree with presents stacked underneath, I fashioned my very own tree out of recycled card-board and acrylic paints, tacked up on the wall with lights and various hand-made ornaments made from corks, buttons, acorn tops and beads. Our wall-tree made cleaning and packing our 120 sq ft tiny apartment much more of a breeze while still allowing for joyous festivity. We opted out of gifts for each other, giving hand-made gifts to our family and friends. We just quit our jobs, oh and did I mention were car-less? The previous summer I convinced my husband to donate our only car while we were living in downtown Newport. With everything being within walking distance and the bus station only a block away, our car sat vacant for months so I thought it would be a good idea to donate our car, figuring it would be better off going to a cause that helps others in need. So not only were we newly married, but we were also jobless, car-less, and soon to be homeless; yet still following our hearts on this crazy life-changing adventure of chasing our dreams.
Had I not taken full advantage of these simple de-stress methods, I don't know how I would have remained sane last year (although sanity is totally over-rated).
Here it is:
Simple Steps to Sanity for the Holiday Season:
For serious. This is the number one most important thing you can do to keep your stress levels and anxiety low. It even helps take care of the holiday blues that sometimes creep their way in. It's a silly thought, but as fast-paced as our lives have become, many of us have forgotten how to properly breathe!
"If I was to have one prescription for relaxation, it would be a breathing exercise," says Janet Messer, Ph.D., a psychologist in Eugene, Oregon. "When you slow down your breathing and focus your attention in your lower belly, it has really profound physiological and psychological effects."
Deep abdominal breathing relaxes tight chest muscles and opens up blood vessels so your heart can pump more efficiently... It also helps you think clearly, so you can stay calmer in a stressful situation. [excerpt from New Choices in Natural Healing].
Check out this Three Part Breath Breakdown video by Emma Nahod Yoga, a RI local yoga instructor. Be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel for instant access to her most recent uploads!
2. Stay Hydrated
With all of the sweets, sugars and caffeine from baked goods to coffee and "holiday lattes," (not to mention your celebratory cocktails and other booze) we tend to throw our body's natural hydration levels off balance. Caffeine, alcohol and sugar are the top three contenders for depleting the water levels in our body.
All of our organs, including our heart and brain, require water in order to function properly. Dehydration symptoms can take the form of headaches, tight muscles, cramps, and yes; stress & anxiety.
The easiest way to continually stay hydrated is to keep a water bottle by your side at all times. As soon as its emptied, fill it back up to keep a continuous cycle of hydration readily available throughout the day.
3. Balance good-for-you foods with delicious holiday sweets.
Yep, I am totally guilty of binge-sweet-eating during the holidays. I love to bake and don't usually do it too much during the warmers seasons. However, during the colder months I can convince myself that baking more will help save on my heating bill. Of course this is no excuse for me to eat an entire loaf of banana bread or as much cookie dough as I have totally consumed over the past few weeks, but sweets are totally my weakness and it's really only this time of year I get carried away with my sweet tooth.
When our stress levels rise, our immune system is also thrown off balance. To even out all the sweets, be sure to add more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. This includes garlic, ginger, lemon and turmeric, to name a few. Check out the recipe for My Favorite Feel Good Immunity Concoction. This can be taken straight up or mixed in soup!
4. Take Time For Yourself
Take time to disconnect from electronics, social media, from television and loud music and allow your mind some much-deserved time to unwind. Many of us have a hard time falling asleep at night because we can't seem to turn our minds off. Mix in the holiday to-do's and we might catch a wink before the new year.
If you can't seem to find time during the day, spend the last hour before bed taking care of yourself. Some options are to light a candle and draw a bath or hot shower or make use of some aromatherapy oils and a cup of organic herbal tea to help calm your mind.
You can also try this video for bed-time yoga and if you're really into the idea of totally pampering yourself, why not a pedicure? If you want to tie in the theme of "holiday giving," you can give your partner a foot massage and if you're even luckier, they may agree to giving one to you. (I am totally spoiled).
We actually hold a great amount of stress and toxins in our feet. This is why giving yourself a pedicure is great! I like to fill a bin with hot water and healing Epsom salts and follow it up with a soothing foot massage with whatever blend of vitamin E and essential oils I create that night. Click here for a Reflexology Chart of Feet and Hands to refer to during your pedicure.
Don't forget to drink a glass of water before and after your massage to flush the toxins out of your system as they are released through massage!
5. Enjoy the Simple Gifts
Modern society has brought us to a state of over-the-top materialistic possession. It's easy to get carried away with the latest and greatest in technology and all of it's expensive new toys and inventions but remember, the reason for this season is above all, to express the simplest and most important gift of all; the gift of Love.
Forget the hectic shopping days and late nights of gift-wrapping. Stop worrying if you bought the right gift for the right person or wondering if there's anyone you may offend for not being able to give more. When it comes down to it, to the raw truth of what this season means, none of that matters.
A simple life filled with love is truly all we ever need.
All the warm wishes to you this holiday season.
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