BEFORE the most hectic part of the holiday season begins, start a breathing or mindfulness practice. I found two wonderful gurus during my cheffing days at Golden Sparrow, who are experts in mindfulness and have taught me the importance of quieting the mind - just in their presence. One is Dr. Michael Hynes, who is the superintendent for the PatMed school district. The other is Cory Muscara, who will no doubt be world-renown for his research and teachings. I've seen how their meditation and mindfulness practices have made them more approachable and calm in hectic daily interactions, so I know the benefits and effects of mindfulness. "I just didn't have the time they had for meditating." (Sound familiar?)
However minute the first step is, just take it. Not tomorrow, today.
I recently picked up my morning meditation practice, after about a year-long Loss of it. I emphasize the word Loss, because it really started to feel like I had lost a limb and had that phantom limb syndrome. I get up about 5:30 every day, shower and have to be at work by 6:30. I couldn’t imagine going to bed earlier than 10pm the night before and altering my entire schedule, so I could get up earlier than I already do. I stumbled upon www.truewellth.org recently and when they asked for our obstacles in a mindfulness practice, I explained my dilemma. The co-founder actually responded! He encouraged me to just start back with 2 minutes per day. Just 2 minutes.
Not to be outdone, I decided to go for 5 minutes (I’m kinda competitive, though I have no idea who I was being “outdone” by!). I’ve been meditating since 11/7, and can’t tell you how good it feels. I’m happier, I adapt to people’s moods better, and seem to be somehow influencing them in a more positive manner. I’m coping with all that has to be done prior to our move, despite being prone to anxiety. I’ve had NO panic attacks, in spite of holiday catering, working as much as usual at my PT job, adding meals to my already hectic client load so they can freeze meals when I leave, researching how to expand the meal delivery service I have, handle two catering and speaking events and a cooking demo, and oh yeah…pack an entire house in a 5-week span of time.
It’s just 5 minutes a day that I spend with myself, just being as still as possible. To be brutally honest, we ALL have 5 minutes to ourselves, regardless of the excuses we make. So start that practice today, because it’s so vital to your health, in ways you can’t imagine!
If you have more time, meditate longer, or squeeze in 20-30 minutes of exercise, as often as possible (preferably 5-6 days a week). Exercise increases our healthy gut bacteria, aids in digestion, literally makes you smarter, helps release happy hormones, and strengthens and tones your body. Walking is perfectly fine, if you can’t get to the gym or if like me, you don’t enjoy rigorous exercise. If you enjoy yoga, martial arts, or any Eastern philosophy, jump in asap! There are countless DVD’s and even free YouTube channels you can find…just get moving!
Eat well. You cannot stay focused and enjoy peace of mind, if your body isn’t being fed properly. If you want to avoid the holiday drain and demands, fruits and veggies are KEY to keeping your immune system balanced and working optimally. Chew. Chew. Chew. Enjoy your food and be mindful about what you’re ingesting and why. We all step outside of our normal routines during the holidays—the sooner you create a healing practice in what you eat, the faster you’ll bounce back when the season has ended. You may even find the desire to overindulge just isn’t there anymore. I promise that happens!
You may not even have to worry about those extra 5 pounds you gained during the holidays, if you’re prepared properly. (As an FYI, this isn’t a “normal human weight gain,” as we’ve been led to believe. The winter weight gain isn’t supposed to be gained and lost in a 1.5 month time period, it’s just poor eating habits!)
Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily practice asap. Take baths, enjoy essential oil blends, stop and breathe, and give yourself quick massages whenever possible. Live in the moment, and not in yesterday or tomorrow’s anxious activities. The holiday season didn’t start before Halloween as we’re also led to believe. It starts after Thanksgiving…honour the year and the Spirit of the season, by being GRATEFUL, joyous and caring every day. Falling out of the moment makes us anxious and worried, short-tempered, and miserable.
Sleep, sleep, sleep! I refuse to give up my precious sleep time, after all the research I’ve done over the years and especially recently. I need my 7 hours, as do you. Humans have not been designed for the insomniatic lives we lead, and it shows in our eating patterns, our emotional habits, and our brain capacity. Those who sleep more are more empathetic, are smarter, have better immune systems, and have less cravings. Sleeping for the right amount of time has allowed my brain to process the fears of our move in my dreams, leaving my waking mind and body free to do what it needs to do—help facilitate healing in others.
You deserve more, this holiday season!
As they say on the airplanes, put the air mask on yourself first, so you can help others. If you’re out of balance, you can’t possibly enjoy the holidays and spread good cheer.