Each year when it gets to the final few weeks of the year it feels as though someone comes along and cranks up the intensity dial. Did you feel that?
More social engagements. Last minute work deadlines. Christmas shopping. A quick run. One more drink. Work. Run. Drink. Blah. Blah. Blah…
It’s exhausting and not just draining for the bank balance, but draining on the body, mind and soul.
If you’ve returned to work this week, you’re probably feeling a little slower (maybe even sluggish post-Christmas & NYE celebrations). But it’s kind-of nice. That feeling of exhaustion has lifted. And yes, there may be a lingering kg or two to deal with and a promise to never drink again… but you feel renewed, for the most part.
Don’t you feel as though your mind is more spacious? Creative ideas might be flowing, aspirations for the year to come are high – we’re altogether more authentically ourselves.
The thing is, we can have this at any moment throughout the year. Yes, I hear you, having time off with loved ones helps, but a huge part of that wind-up is simply not taking the time to notice just how stressed we are.
For me, it’s during silly season and any other stressful period that I really need some (extra) me time. Time to breath and nourish my body with movement. And plenty of self-care.
I only recognise this now after years of saying yes to more deadlines, yes to more coffee and yes to more booze in those times of stress – but in the end none of that makes me feel less tired or less inclined to want to yell at the person who cut me off (Christmas is the only time of year I feel any road rage, anyone else?). In the end, none of that makes me more present for those around me I love most.
We can have all this year round. We can thrive. Give your body the right ingredients and you will thrive.
At a time of year where you are setting intentions ask yourself; what will make you thrive more in 2019?
And how can you lay that foundation now, while things are a little slower and you can implement change – what can you do this week to help yourself thrive more in 2019?
SOME TIPS TO STRESS LESS
If you stop breathing you die, it’s simple. Breath keeps you alive! But so often we restrict it, often unconsciously. When we’re stressed or nervous or anxious, we hold our breath or breathe in short, shallow bursts. Try becoming aware of your changing breathing patterns. Make a mental note to yourself to breathe when you find yourself feeling stressed. Stop what you’re doing and breathe deeply—in through your nose, out through your mouth—for as long as you need to. I also like making an “aaghrrr” sound. Not only will you find that your heart rate slows and the chatter of your mind tends to cease, you’ll also likely find greater clarity around whatever was worrying you. For a deeper practice see Nadi Shodana below.
Movement helps the body process the stress. The stress will hang around far longer than it needs to without movement. The next time you’re stressed, try going for a walk or run or doing some yoga or signing up for a class – find something that gives you pleasure and get out there and do it.
For me, it’s yoga.
In yoga we use deep, slow breathing as an anchor into the present moment. Each movement or posture is paired with breath. Each posture an opportunity to be present in that moment. See below for a few favourites.
If yoga or meditation interests your workplace, contact me at The Happy Living Project to arrange a free consultation or trial.
When all else fails (though I promise the tips above won’t!), treat yourself. When the stress won’t abate, allow yourself the time and space to luxuriate. You don’t need to head to a fancy spa—though you’re welcome to! You can create a stress-free, relaxed, indulgent experience right from the comfort of your own bathtub. Water is healing and restorative, especially with some magnesium bath salts and lovely aromatherapy oils( lavender and rose are my fav).
POSTURES & BREATHING EXERCISES TO STRESS LESS
- Forward fold (Uttanasana)
This can help quite a busy mind, balance the nervous system, and promote feelings of calm and peace. This posture is super easy, not props or experience required.
- From standing, bend the knees, slightly engage the core, and hinge forward from the hips, placing the hands in front of or alongside your feet.
- Shift the weight onto the balls of your feet and feel the sit bones lifting up toward the ceiling. For tight hamstrings, you can keep the knees bent to protect the lower back. Otherwise, lengthen through the backs of the legs while keeping the weight in the balls of the feet.
- Take hold of each elbow with the opposite hand and soften around the eyes, jaw, neck, head, and mind.
Hold for a few breaths, or longer if you feel comfortable. If you have low blood pressure, take your time coming out of the pose.
- Nadi Shodana – Alternate Nostril Breath
Alternate Nostril Breath (nadi = subtle energy channel; shodhan = cleaning, purification) is a balancing breath and body technique. A few minutes of this breathing technique is great way to destress the mind and release accumulated tension and fatigue.
Read about Hilary Clinton using this following her parliamentary loss.
5 – 10 x full cycles (full cycle is in through left, out of right, in through right out of left)
- Find a nice tall spine
- Place thumb and ring finger over the hollow at the top bridge of nose cartilage. Use your right hand, so the thumb covers the right nostril and ring finger the left. Fold the middle two fingers down.
- Closing your right nostril with thumb or right index finger, inhale only through the left nostril
- Close the left nostril (apply Kumbhaka “breath retention”/ hold if you’re comfortable with this). .
- Open the right nostril, covering the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril
- Inhale through the right nostril (apply Kumbhaka “breath retention” if you wish)
- Switch fingers to exhale through the left.
- Alternate between left and right to the ratio of 4 count (inhale): 2 (hold) : 4 (exhale). You can build towards 8:4:8.
- Lowers heart rate reducing stress and anxiety
- Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system so healing and rejuvenation becomes a priority
- Balances the two hemispheres of brain functionality as it balances the body
- Increases mental focus and clarity
- Find equanimity of the energy system by purifying the Nadi’s so that prana can flow more easily.