The holidays are supposed to be a season of joy. Instead, they’re a season of stress, anxiety and depression for 88% of Americans. That’s according to a study conducted by OnePoll last December—months before COVID-19 came to our shores. This year, thanks to the pandemic, our health and wellness is even more vulnerable—especially given the extra stressors of this out-of-control year.
This makes staying healthy matter now more than ever before. Yet at the same time, the pandemic has limited the opportunities we have to pursue activities that foster health and wellness, from socializing, hitting the gym, dining out or even shopping. No wonder so many of us are experiencing crisis fatigue—a mixture of exhaustion, rage, despair and grief. Researchers are concluding that the pandemic is causing a global mental health crisis.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great strategies to help alleviate holiday anxiety, stress and depression. Even better, they’re easy, immediate, effective and economical—and will help long after the holidays are over. In fact, new Fitbit data confirms stress-relieving activities are actually on the rise, including meditation and yoga.
As a wellness and mind-body consultant, I can verify this trend; my corporate clients are more engaged than ever before in programs that support all aspects of wellness. This includes strategies from the yoga tradition to strengthen the immune system, alleviate anxiety and fear and help people learn how to access, transform and heal their body and mind.
Ancient Science, Modern Results
Many don’t realize that yoga is actually an ancient practice that came into being to deal with the difficulties, demands and stresses human beings have faced for millennia. Its many practices support our immune system, foster a higher level of healing and improve our overall health. Best of all, yoga practices reinforce our traditional coping mechanisms around family, friends and community. Breathing and movement exercises, for example, regulate heart rate and reduce stress, building resilience and well-being in a time of stress.
The mind-body practices below are basic ideas from the yoga tradition to support and protect your health. They reduce anxiety, depression and stress, and that makes them ideal to use during the holidays. Try them, share them with family, friends and employees, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself using them long after the holidays are past.
5 Mind-Body Practices to Reduce Holiday Stress
- Move Your Body. Movement is fundamental for blood flow, a healthy respiratory system and balanced growth throughout your life. These two practices help get you moving while building your immunity.
- Focus Your Breath. Breathing is a powerful way to build stability and strength. Practicing pranayama, or conscious breathing, can be restorative to the body.
- “5-Minute Breathing Meditation” is a breathing practice designed to create a peaceful yet focused state of body and mind
- Practice Meditation. Meditation calms your mind and helps you remain peaceful while maintaining a state of focused attention.
- “Tuning In” can be done in any time frame and includes movement, meditation and self-inquiry to help you shift your state from distraction to expansion
- Engage Emotionally. Intentionally taking time to tune in to your physical and emotional state helps involve you in the immediacy of your life.
- “Standing in the Flow” is a self-inquiry meditation that can be done anytime, day or night, to bring a felt presence to your emotional awareness
- Connect with Spiritual Purpose. Faith in yourself is an important element in yoga, and it comes from the trust you have in your highest self.
- “Faith—Returning to Oneself” is a short meditation technique you can use after any practice to deepen your inner experience and bring your awareness back to the self
Understanding and applying these strategies can not only help you have a stress-free holiday season, they can also help you achieve protective health benefits such as an improved immune system and mental resilience. You can also take an Audit Your Wellness quiz to assess your current state of wellness and create your own rituals to improve your poise, energy and focus.