3 Ways to Stay True This Holiday Season

As the clock leaps forward and our calendars fill with social commitments, life can start feel overwhelming. Holiday music and advertisements flood the senses. Unrealistic expectations fill the mind.  Or, must they? Here are three tips to help yourself stay focused, healthy and happy in the midst of seasonal chaos :

1. Gain perspective.

It is difficult to live a day without being bombarded by society's standards of happiness, beauty, validity and its falsely created definition of "normality".  It is no wonder Americans struggle with high blood pressure and sink into regular bouts anxiety and depression. Even in the midst of all the high energy, feelings of lonliness spike during this time of year.*

Before you become overwhelmed, take a step back. Be an unbiased observer to your present. Gain perspective, not on how you THINK your reality is unfolding, but how it actually IS unfolding. Note what is truly important to you this holiday season. Is it staying late at work to make a few extra bucks, or is it going home early to see your loved ones? Is it bolting around town to every social engagement, or is it balancing your personal needs with the needs of those around you? There is no one "right" answer. Your truth is yours. When you feel the chaos of your surroundings, take a brief moment to come back this truth.  Gain perspective.

2. Show gratitude.

We aren't just saying this because Thanksgiving is approaching. Cultivating gratitude is proven method for sustaining wellbeing. A Harvard Medical School publication researched and analyzed the benefits of expressing thanks:

"With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power".**

Make a commitment to count your blessings, say "thank you" and smile. It is CLINICALLY PROVEN to make you feel good. Show gratitude.

3. Breathe.

Really. Close your eyes and take a deep breathe. Now, do it three more times. How do you feel?

You can use intentional breathing as a tool to help pull yourself back to your present, gain perspective on your now, and realize your gifts. Not to mention you can use this as a tool to harness your emotions, calm your nervous system, and lower your blood pressure and stress levels.***

How-to: Come to stillness (sitting or standing).  Begin by exhaling completely to create space for a full inhale. Now, take a breathe in and don't stop until your lungs are full. Slowly exhale on the count of 5. Repeat. On every inhale, notice your chest rising and lungs expanding. On the exhale, feel your sternum fall and imagine your burdens physically seeping out. Breathe.

In case you aren't convinced by thousands of years of yogic knowledge ...

*Western medicine says so: http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/25-ways-find-joy-balance-during-holidays?page=2

** Harvard says so:  http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_mental_health_letter/2011/november/in-praise-of-gratitude

*** NPR says so:  http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever

Photos by the one and only Carolyn D. Rush