Are you traveling to visit family this holiday? Or are you jumping into a family Zoom conference call with a glass of wine in one hand and your cat in the other? Wherever you’ll be, chances are that you’ll be dealing with the challenges that can come up with traveling, technology and/or the nuances of your family dynamics. (Festivus for the rest of us, anyone?) While it may be off of your radar to focus on workouts or practicing any yoga sequences longer than 15 minutes, there’s a few minimal-fuss ideas to manage your well-being and down-regulate your nervous system. Read on for my top 3 holiday stress relief tips.
Holiday Stress Relief Tip #1: Balance the Eggnog with some Herbs
No, not those herbs unless you’re in one of the several states that’s legalized them. I’m talking about herbs you can find at your local organic shop. One of my clients is a licensed Western Medical Herbalist, and every time I read one of her healthy recipes my mouth starts drooling a little bit more. For this holiday season, she recommends 3 kinds of herbs:
- Lemon Verbena
Lemon Verbena is said to be great for reducing spasms, so if you’re caught in an act of holiday overindulgence, grab some leaves or pre-packaged tea bags and steep in hot water for 5 minutes. The flavor should be good on its own, but if you’d like you can mix in other tea flavors. Be sure to keep a lid on so the helpful oils don’t evaporate with the steam.
Traditionally used to soothe and down-regulate your nervous system without making you drowsy, skullcap is a part of the mint family. This is considered to be a stress-relieving beverage. Steep the leaves as you prepare for bed and treat it as a nice holiday nightcap. Now, that’s my cup of tea.
3. Milk Thistle Seeds
Best served as a tincture or with food, milk thistle seeds can help protect your liver against alcohol-related damage. However, I do have to give a disclaimer that if you’re on any medication you should consult your doctor.
Holiday Stress Relief Tip #2: Breathe
As if you didn’t hear this suggestion already, it’s repeated numerous times for good reason: when many of us are experiencing an unfavorable situation (or thinking back to one), our breath becomes very shallow and centered in the chest. This signals to our nervous system (or vice versa) that something isn’t safe. Whenever that happens, the various nerves and neurotransmitters start busting into Protection Mode. This can restrict our movement as connective tissues can brace for potential trouble.
- If you find yourself feeling the opposite of holiday cheer, step away for a moment and find a place to sit or lie down.
- You can place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Notice where most of your breath is flowing. Don’t try to fix or change your breath just this instant. Instead, take a non-judgemental observation. Even 30 seconds can be long enough to get an idea.
- Once you’ve taken a mental note, now you can send your focus to your belly, the sides of your belly and your lower back. If you’d like you can place both hands on both sides of your waist. Shift your breath to your hands and feel your ribs moving ever so slightly.
If all else fails, revert to the cup of egg nog, a glass of wine or applying your face directly to your cat’s belly.* (*If you’re abstaining from alcohol, there’s virgin versions of egg nog with plenty of grape juice choices)
Holiday Stress Relief Tip #3: Take a Yin Yoga Break
If you are traveling, visiting family or short on time, the benefit of taking a short yin yoga break is that you can easily find a bath towel or a pillow. You could just pack a single yoga block for some nice myofascial release as you rest in each pose for just 2-3 minutes. These yin-style poses can be adapted for hyperflexible yogis, too, since we’re not trying to hang out in the end-range.
- Side-reclining Buddha (or Lady Buddha), Serratus Anterior Love
As you lie on your side, place a yoga block or rolled up bath towel perpendicularly to your lower rib cage. This could be your bra line or about a hand’s width from below your armpit. Use one hand to support your head and the other to rest on top of your side or in front of you (there should be full relaxation). You can shift forward and back just a small degree or just rest for 2-3 minutes. Then, switch sides.
2. Side-reclining Buddha (or Lady Buddha), Latissmus Dorsi Love
Remain on your side, but move the block/towel up to your armpit. Rest for 2-3 minutes. Switch sides.
3. Assisted Fish Pose
Roll onto your back to rest in supine. Take the block/towel and place it just under your shoulder blades. Allow your arms to splay open as desired. If your neck needs more support, place a small pillow under your head. Melt into the props for 2-3 minutes.