Whether you are hosting the extended family for a festive feast or packing kids plus pressies into the car and driving home for Christmas, the festive run-up can be an overwhelming experience.
Here are yoga teacher Ranit Katz’s five tips for keeping your cool this Yule:
It may sound simple, but concentrating on your breath for even a few seconds can calm the body and mind when things get overwhelming. “A lot of us spend our days at desks or hunched over a keyboard or reading, texting, searching on our phones and have developed horrible slumped over postures,” says Ranit. “Some yoga research has shown that this poor posture can reduce our lung capacity to as little as 30%. This can increase our feelings of exhaustion and increase stress.”
Taking the time to expand our breathing helps to increase the levels of oxygen coming into our bodies “which in turn increases our feelings of happiness,” she says. “We hear it all the time, ‘Count to 10 or breathe to 10’ but for some of us it might be five breaths or 20. Focus on the depth of the breath rather than the number of breaths you take.”
2. Make time for yourself
The run-up to Christmas may feel like one long assault course of food shopping, school plays, concerts and nights out, but don’t forget to look after your own wellbeing. “Take one hour each day for yourself,” says Ranit. “It doesn’t matter when that hour is or whether it’s for your favourite gym or yoga class, you go for a walk on the beach or in the woods or read for an hour. The key is that this is time for you alone. It’s one of the hardest things for us to do, but being kinder to ourselves can help to make us better mums, dads, partners and friends.
“It’s nice to do any time, but December is a critical time – if you get into the habit of doing it now you will feel the benefit.”
If you have retreated feeling defeated to your room at the end of another “one of those days” and feel that you can’t manage to pack all the pre-Christmas planning in, take some time to be thankful for what you do have. “Make a small gratitude list and keep it in your nightstand,” advises Ranit, “It might be something as simple as thinking ‘How lucky I am to be able to cook these meals for my family’ or ‘How lucky I am to have the money to buy gifts this Christmas’.”
It’s there as a reminder that while everything else may feel overwhelming, there is much to be grateful for in your life.
4. Be generous with your hugs
Making physical connections with loved ones and friends can do wonders for our stress levels. “Hold hands,” says Ranit. “Hug for at least three seconds – hugs have more of an impact when they last for three seconds or more. Embracing is an amazing way of feeling calm, so much can be said in those three seconds.” Children do this naturally, but as we get older we become more self-conscious and feel more vulnerable. “When you hold someone’s hand, you can feel their heartbeat and the heat that is transferred creates a connection,” Ranit adds.
Those moments of calm and connection will stay with you throughout your day.
5. Share the responsibility
Don’t feel that you have to take on every aspect of the Christmas cooking, cleaning up and entertaining. “Don’t be afraid to accept help if your guests offer it and make lists of jobs that your family can do,” says Ranit.
Taking some time to plan the festivities will also pay off. “Make lists of the different meals you will need to make,” Ranit says. “Are you going to be cooking breakfast for guests, will they need dinner on Christmas Eve? Making those lists will help keep you focused, but break it up and think about ways to make things easy on yourself.”
That might be setting up a coffee and tea station where people can help themselves or preparing dishes that can be heated up in the oven when you have a crowd to feed.
Ranit Katz is a yoga and mindfulness teacher who offers private and group yoga lessons in the St Andrews area. Look out for details of a festive workshop at The Malt Barn Studio. asanabloom.com