After an intense year, there are only a few months to go before we can all wave goodbye to 2020. But before that glorious send-off, we have to make it through the gauntlet that can be the holidays. While the holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of celebration with friends and family, the pressure to have a good time—combined with the close proximity of relatives who may or may not be a little grating at times—can often lead to undue stress and holiday burnout.
Thankfully, there are many ways to manage holiday stress with Ayurveda, from watching your diet to remembering to take time for yourself. Ayurveda identifies the holidays as a period that is particularly aggravating to the Vata dosha, often leaving us feeling anxious, ungrounded and lacking routine or order. With a few thoughtful tweaks to your holiday plans, you can maintain balance internally and externally, while still enjoying every minute with your loved ones.
Dealing with External Stressors
It’s important to remember that Ayurveda looks at both internal and external environmental factors to help you balance your doshas. Holiday stress is often exacerbated by poor diet, including pressure to overindulge with friends and family. While this in itself is not necessarily a problem, overindulging in rich foods, sweets or alcohol can put a strain on your digestive fire (agni), which can in turn cause poor sleep, leading to exhaustion and a never-ending domino-effect.
A simple solution to this is to focus on holiday foods that support your dosha, instead of overwhelming it. You can also try fasting before celebrations in which you know you are likely to overindulge. A calming 3-day fast of kitchari or whole grains and steamed vegetables will give your body a break before you consume holiday foods that are often high in fat and sugar.
When you are ready to partake in some holiday cheer, here are a few things to keep in mind for each dosha.
Vata: This dosha needs grounding, warming foods for balance. If this is your dosha, count yourself lucky, as these types of foods are often staples during the holidays! Steer toward steamed vegetables like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes, and take advantage of the cold weather to enjoy a calming cup of chamomile or ginger tea. The scent of cinnamon and cloves is also good for this dosha.
Pitta: This dosha can be prone to anger and irritability this time of year, so it’s important to focus on cooling, stabilizing foods. In particular, try swapping in rice and quinoa instead of potatoes, and enjoy peppermint tea or foods cooked with peppermint. Ice-skating is also a recommended activity for this dosha.
Kapha: This time of year, Kapha can be prone to depression and lack of motivation due to the shorter, colder days. To keep this dosha moving, focus on spicy, warming foods. Ginger and chai tea are recommended, as are foods with bitter, pungent tastes. Cranberries, anyone? Additionally, the scent of cloves and myrrh are beneficial for this dosha.
Managing Internal Stress
Beyond watching what you eat this time of year, it’s also important to take some time for yourself to manage holiday stress. Keeping a regular routine of exercise and meditation will help you feel balanced throughout the season.
In particular, keep up a daily form of exercise, but don’t push yourself too hard. You’ll want to focus on calming exercises like gentle yoga, a brisk walk outside or potentially a leisurely bike ride. The goal is to gently stoke your energy, not to get your heart pounding.
Carving out time for personal meditation and reflection is also key. As you spend more time with family and holiday obligations eat away at your time, make sure you set aside even a few minutes a day for a quick meditation session or some alternate-nostril breathing. Even this scant time focused solely on how you’re feeling can work wonders in managing your stress and staying grounded.
Finally, make sure you don’t skip out on your daily oil massage (abhyanga). This warming, grounding practice is key for staying rejuvenated throughout the season, and it’s a great way to incorporate aromatherapy as you wake up your muscles with a gentle massage.
Make the Most of the Season
While there’s no doubt that the holidays can be stressful, if done right they can also be, well, holidays. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, remember you can manage your holiday stress with Ayurveda so you can make the most of this time with friends and family.
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Author: Alexandria Baker (YouVeda Wellness Contributor)