The festive time of the year can be incredible: full of new memories, quality family time and great food. However, it can be as fun as it can be stressful when a comfortable balance between pleasure-rich indulgence and guilty over-indulgence begins to feel like a complete impossibility.
Too often, self-care routines tend to feel rigid and unsustainable, and certainly not feasible when parties and family gatherings monopolize our schedules, leaving us exhausted and confused.
Is it possible to strike the right balance, get adequate sleep and ensure good nutrition as well as self-care during the hectic, festive season? It very much is! Here’s what you can do to prioritize yourself this time around.
It all begins with you
A connection with your body and highest self is the secret to well-being. It is the foundation for any meaningful approach to health — physical, mental and emotional, and is therefore one of the most effective stress relievers too. In fact, most stress and disease is the result of a lack of connection with ourselves.
When we feel connected, we feel whole. We’re at ease, more confident, in tune with ourselves, aligned with our body wisdom and therefore, naturally and instinctively able to make choices that are conducive to our well-being. We feel free to enjoy ourselves and have fun, but also know when enough is enough, and find it easy to create healthy boundaries for ourselves, both in terms of food, drink and people!
So how do you get connected? Meditation. Mindfulness. Conscious breathing. Whatever you’re comfortable calling it, the practice of turning your senses inward, breathing deeply and taking 10-15 minutes daily to become more aware and conscious of yourself is the most powerful medicine, because it empowers the real you. Rather than running on auto-pilot and relying on old habits, this daily practice of connecting with yourself puts you back in the driving seat, and allows you to feel empowered to make choices that are nourishing and loving.
Feel your way
None of us are robots, our energy levels and emotions ebb and flow, as does our ability to digest food, bounce back from a late night and tolerate stressful situations. Sometimes, our body copes and does a great job of feeling energized and comfortable, even after a foodie feast and staying out late on a school night!
A connection with your body and highest self is the secret to well-being.
Yet, sometimes, our body just says “no,” and needs more rest, a gentler pace, less rich foods, and lots of water. The magic is to listen to your body and to make choices that are inspired by how you feel in the moment, instead of expecting your body to just deal with it, whatever the weather. The more you learn to ‘feel your way’ and respect your body’s boundaries, the more you will work with yourself, rather than against. Of course, to do this you will have to be mindful and aware, connected with yourself which is why your daily meditative practice is the most valuable investment you will ever make.
This time of year can be full of potentially toxic encounters with friends or family members which can be stressful and create anxiety. The most powerful thing we can do in these situations is to remain grounded and stable in our own energy, aware that other people’s behaviour is not a reflection of our self-worth. Instead, it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Before meeting someone who can potentially be toxic, centre yourself with 5-10 minutes of mindful breathing, and set a positive intention such as “I intend to feel relaxed, comfortable and enjoy myself.” This will help in setting the tone of your time with them. As energy always follows thought, intention setting is an effective tool to navigate challenging social situations and meetings. Most of all, respect your boundaries, and know when it’s time to leave.
Remember to support yourself
When life gets busy, our well-being falls down our priority list and we leave ourselves vulnerable to a weakened immune system, which just exacerbates feelings of stress and frustration. There are simple essentials such as adequate sleep and hydration that are needed on a daily basis to continue feeling healthy and strong.
If you remember to support yourself, especially when everything else goes out of the window, you will encourage more ease and comfort in your schedule, even when life is demanding. To thrive, you have to remember how to live!
A back-to-basics approach here is far more effective and sustainable than a convoluted micro management of nutrition. What are the daily basics? Light, breath, water, stillness for your mind, and movement for your body.
Remember to support yourself through these tips:
- Get outside daily, for at least 20 minutes, with sun/light exposure to as much skin as your climate allows.
- Breathe deeply, consciously for a minimum of 10 minutes daily.
- Drink water throughout the day, making sure you optimize detoxification and elimination by drinking 500-1000ml of room temperature, good quality water before breakfast. Continue to drink an additional 1500-2000ml of water and herbal teas, as much as you need.
- Your mind needs stillness to stay healthy, focused and functional. When your mind is still, your body is also able to relax, repair and restore. Daily 10-15 meditative sessions are medicine of the most powerful kind. Use it well.
- Your body needs movement, daily. Turn to walking, dancing, yoga, stretching or whatever feels good to you. Note that ‘movement’ does not necessarily mean ‘vigorous exercise.’ Learn to navigate what your body truly needs, rather than what you ‘think’ is needed, and commit to that. For guidance, a 30 minute daily walk, and some stretching or yoga, can be a wonderful tonic for your mind and body, especially when combined with conscious breathing.
Laura is an economist turned author, nutritionist and well-being expert who is passionate about holistic healthcare and body positivity. You can see her other work here.