Wow everyone, it’s December! I can’t believe we’re into the last month of 2019 already. This holiday season really crept up on me this year. These last couple months have been pretty hectic, and I don’t think I was alone in that feeling! I’ve been feeling a little ungrounded myself lately, as is common for many this time of year, so I wanted to shed some light on why we tend to feel this way, and what we can do to counteract some of the holiday craziness that this time of year can bring.
I often like to look at life through the lens of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, and put simply it is a way of harmonizing our own internal environment with the external environment. There are 3 doshas, or biological energies made up of the 5 elements, found in Ayurveda that govern all physical and mental experiences. Every person has a dominant dosha (to find out what you are, check out Deepak Chopra's dosha test). But more than that, the qualities of each dosha are present in all parts of nature, including the seasons. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, it’ll make (a little) more sense soon.
Unlike Western thought that divides the seasons into four categories-winter, fall, summer, spring-Ayurveda divides the seasons into the three doshas (Pitta, Kapha, and Vata). For the sake of keeping this post a reasonable length, I’m only going to dive into the season we have been in since late fall—Vata season.
Vata is made of the elements air and ether (or space). Vata qualities are dry, cool, rough, light, constantly moving, irregularity, and changeable. When we consider this, is it really that surprising that we tend to feel a bit ungrounded this time of year?! No matter what your dominant dosha is, Vata season will increase the qualities of Vata in you, possibly making you feel air-headed, anxious, and flighty. You may have a hard time focusing or a hard time sleeping, or you may be feeling somewhat forgetful and a little “all-over-the-place.”
The good news is there are some things you can do to counteract this increase in Vata energy. And trust me, you want to stay grounded during the holiday season! There’s so much to do at the end of the year, plus you may be busier than normal with holiday parties and family gatherings. If you’re feeling ungrounded, you’ll have a harder time accomplishing your end-of-the-year to do lists (can you tell I'm a Type A personality?). You won't be able fully enjoy moments with the people you love. And you’ll also have a harder time setting and keeping healthy boundaries in social settings. Staying grounded is the key to staying sane this holiday season. So below, I’ve listed some of my favorite grounding practices and tips so that you can more fully enjoy the end of your year (and keep your sanity)!
Try this grounding pranayama (breath). Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or too up-in-your-head? Try this. Close your eyes, inhale and count to 3. Pause at the top of your inhale. Then exhale and count to 6. This 1:2 breath ratio will help you feel more calm, because exhales are naturally more calming, while inhales are more energizing.
Pause and appreciate the moment for what it is. Sometimes we get to the end of year without taking time to stop and appreciate all the beautiful moments that happen with loved ones. If you’re at an event, or spending time with friends or family, take a moment to just pause and look around. Soak in the moment, and take pause to just be grateful for what you have. And remember that if you’re not feeling especially joyous this season, that’s okay too. Honor whatever feelings you have, and give yourself permission to feel them. You don’t have to be full of joy this time of year, despite what the media may tell you. **P.S. Journaling is a great way to sort through your feelings and get all those thoughts out of your head and down on paper.
Go for a hike, or a walk. What better way to feel grounded than to get outside and be with the Earth. Take a walk or a hike (if you can, try to be on dirt trails or grass). This is also a great way to re-center yourself if you’re at a social gathering and are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the conversation. Ask your friend to go for a walk with you, or excuse yourself for a quick walk by yourself. Or just plant your feet in some dirt for a few minutes and breathe!
Eat hearty foods! Part of Ayurveda is learning to eat with the seasons. Eating foods that are in-season are actually balancing to your dosha(s). Root veggies such as beets, brussel sprouts, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions are all wonderful, as well as kale and cabbage. Eat plenty of hearty stews and soups (’tis the season for crockpot cookin’), and also make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy fats. Coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, and animal fat if you’re not vegan/vegetarian. Yum! And don't be afraid to enjoy food at social events. Food is more than just calories in, calories out. Food is love and connection. Your body can handle a few indulgent meals just fine.
Be consistent and steadfast when you set boundaries. Re-enforcing boundaries when you’re at social events will allow you to more fully enjoy other’s company without feeling angry or resentful (which is usually a sign a boundary has been crossed). Oftentimes, we need to continue to set the boundary, especially if your loved ones are not used to you having those boundaries. Use simple, polite, direct language, and excuse yourself from anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to say no to things that don’t feel right. When your boundaries are flexible, you are allowing in that Vata energy of constant movement. Stay steadfast and strong, so that you honor your needs and feelings this season.
Book yourself a massage! Massage is an awesome way to get back into your body and out of your head. With all the stress that can happen around the holidays, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Even if you don’t book a full massage, go get a pedicure or a foot rub. Anything to give back to yourself and take some time for just YOU! The more we care for ourselves, the better givers we can be.
Practice yoga poses that are calming and grounding. One of the best ways to get out of your head is to move your body! Below are some of my favorite asanas to help center and ground you, and calm your central nervous system!
Child's pose: big toes together, knees wide as comfortable. Walk your hands forward and place them shoulder width apart. *Modify this pose by placing a blanket under the shins to relieve pressure on the ankles, slide the blanket up into your hip creases to create space in your low back, and/or place a block underneath your forehead if it doesn't come to the ground.
Malasana: take your feet a little wider than your hips, toes turned out, and then squat. Bring your palms together at heart center, and lift your chest towards your thumbs. Close your eyes and take at least 5 breaths. *Modify by elevating your heels on a rolled up yoga mat or blanket (as pictured), and/or place a block underneath your sit bones if you feel pressure in the knees.
Legs up the wall pose: start with your outer hip against the wall, then start to lie back and swing your legs up the wall. Try to get your booty as close to the wall as possible. Relax the shoulders, place your hands on the tops of your thighs (or rest them wherever comfortable), and gently flex the feet. Option to also take the legs wide, and let gravity take effect, or support the outer thighs with your hands. Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes. *This pose is incredibly calming for your central nervous system*
If you try any of these things, let me know what you think and if they helped you feel more centered, and more sane! I wish you a happy December, whatever you celebrate, or don't celebrate. May you find more peace, and more love. Namaste, friends.