15 Dec the answer to holiday stress
The holiday season can be incredibly overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up in the demands of family gatherings, party prepping, gift giving, and the endless amounts of treats that pop up everywhere. We all have a tendency to get pulled off balance this time of year, which leaves us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious. Who wants to spend the holidays like that?! That is why I want to share my secret weapon to staying grounded – meditation.
I get it, maybe you don’t think it’s your thing. I understand, because I didn’t used to think it was my thing either! Off and on I was exposed to it over the years, but I never really grasped the point. I was the girl that wanted to dash out of the yoga class as soon as the flow was over since I found the savasana pointless. I felt I had better things to do since my mind was racing through a mental to-do list anyway. Does this sound familiar?
It Finally Clicked
I didn’t really connect with the purpose of meditation until two things happened. First, I heard an analogy that every time your mind wanders during meditation and you bring it back, it’s like a bicep curl for your brain. Ok, that sounds good to me! My mind was wandering constantly! This concept of accepting that it will wander and when I bring it back I am doing something good for myself was something I could get behind. Next, I committed to really trying it. Not just once, but for one month for 5-10 minutes per day.
In the beginning, it was hard. I could think of every excuse under the sun not to meditate, but I was committed. I am a firm believer of not recommending something I haven’t at least tried myself, so I was going to see this through. Day by day, I found that it became easier. I began to relax. I had never realized how much tension I held in by body until I began to focus on my breath, be in the present moment, and relax. Then, I started to notice the benefits would last for hours following my meditation. Nothing remarkable, per se, happened during those quiet moments with myself. But somehow, I felt better all day. I was calmer, more tolerant, and less reactive.
Now two years in, my biggest lesson with meditation is that it is hard to truly understand the benefits until you have experienced them yourself. This practice has shifted my life in such a profound way. I never would have believed it if someone had just told me, I had to experience them myself.
The goal of meditation is to allow the mind to rest from thoughts and be in the present moment, so I wanted to share a very simple breathing meditation you can do at home (or anywhere!). Shallow, chest breathing is a signal that we are in a “fight or flight” or stress response and can lead to tension and fatigue. Breathing with your diaphragm tends to reduce stress, improve energy, and stimulate relaxation in the body. My hope is that, at the very least, this meditation will encourage you to find some space this holiday season to be alone and get centered. Here it goes:
- Find a comfortable chair and sit with the feet hip distance apart. Sit with your back straight (not resting on the back, if possible), hips and knees at a 90-degree angle, with your chin parallel to the ground. Be sure you are sitting without discomfort or straining.
- Place one hand on your belly near the navel, and the other hand on your Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breath. Slowly, smooth out your breath so it is slow and calm. Try to make each inhale the same length as each exhale. Focus here about 2 minutes.
- Now, notice which hand is rising: the hand on your chest, the hand on your belly, or both. Slowly begin to move your breath to the belly – feeling that hand gently rise and fall with each slow, smooth breath.
- If a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it and let it go. Continue to focus on your breath – in and out.
- Keep your hands on your chest and belly if you are comfortable, or move them onto your thighs. Stay here, focusing on the breath, for 2 to 10 minutes.
- Slowly, begin to bring your awareness back to the room. Begin to return to normal breathing.
To view a demonstration of this mediation, click here. This meditation is a great place to start since it focuses your attention on the breath. If you are looking to go deeper into meditation, there are many forms of meditation. Different forms and practices will work better for different people.
30-day Meditation Challenge
For those interested in exploring meditation further, I will be hosting a free 30-day Meditation Challenge starting January 7th! To support the challenge, I have created a closed Facebook group. In this private community I will share sample meditations, my favorite tips, and provide a place to support each other to meditate daily for 30 days. To join the group, click here.