Even though the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, it often turns into one of the most stressful times of the year. Juggling holiday shopping with preparations for guests, in addition to the regular stresses of modern life, can sometimes leave people feeling overwhelmed and overextended. To deal with the anxiety of deadlines, budgets, and the holiday blues, many people are prescribed sedatives only to feel drowsy and foggy throughout the day. Then in turn, people begin to drink more caffeine to compensate for their medication-induced fatigue, which only stimulates the “stress response” in the nervous system causing even more anxiety, so they take more sedatives! It becomes a vicious cycle and the end result is that the holidays become a time of fatigue and tension.
If you need help getting out of this stress cycle and want to rid yourself of your inner Grinch, look no further. More than 5,000 years ago, ayurveda had already recognized the intimate connection between the emotions, the mind and the body. The primary cause of stress is the inability to feel centered within oneself in the midst of a challenging situation. As a consequence, a person is unable to enjoy and appreciate the experiences in life because he or she feels tossed around like a leaf in the wind. The good news is there are simple steps to finding balance.
Here are some effortless ayurvedic tips to help you bring balance back to the holiday season so that you can feel centered and enjoy all the blessings this season brings.
In ayurveda, the seat of emotions is in the heart. In America there is a similar belief and that is why we describe emotional pain as “heartache” or “heartbreak.” An open heart has the ability to love, give, and feel compassion. But when there is a stress blocking these natural expressions of the heart, it can lead to an imbalance in the emotions. The holidays can be a time when old emotional pains get stirred and can lead to a feeling of heaviness in the heart and depression.
Roses are used as medicine for emotional stress in ayurveda. In the West, we tend to associate the gift of roses with love and romance, and this stems from the concept that roses can “open” the heart by bringing it back into balance. There are 3 easy ways to incorporate the power of roses into your daily routine to balance your emotions:
1. Make a tasty drink before bed by adding rose petal preserves to warm milk. Drinking it before bedtime helps you get a deeper, more rejuvenating sleep in addition to balancing the heart.
2. Drink a tea combining dried holy basil leaves (tulsi tea) with dried rose petals. Put the tea in a thermos and take small sips throughout the day.
3. Wear rose essential oil on your skin throughout the day as aromatherapy.
Balancing the Mind
When people experience more stress, they produce stress hormones, such as cortisol. There are receptors in the brain for cortisol in the hippocampus—an area that is particularly important for memory. When cortisol is released under times of exaggerated stress, it impairs the brain’s memory function resulting in the “brain fog” associated with stress. This impairs judgment and the ability to make decisions. Have you ever noticed that when you are under more stress, you make bad decisions that you often regret later on?
One particular ayurvedic herb is known for its ability to balance the effects of stress on the mind—winter cherry (ashwaganda). Winter cherry improves mental function under stress. It targets several areas of the mind to help you think clearly and solve problems. It also prevents the damage that is incurred by the brain from prolonged exposure to stress hormones.
Balancing the Body
Our bodies naturally make stress-fighting hormones that we can tap into at any time. The 2 most powerful ways to release your body’s own natural resources for alleviating stress are meditation and exercise. Numerous studies have shown that meditation and exercise boost the body’s production of healthy hormones such as serotonin, which create a sense of wellbeing and calm. And it doesn’t take hours to reap these results—20 minutes of meditation twice a day and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 3 times a week is all you need.
So, instead of being overwhelmed during the holiday season, use these tools to stay centered in any situation you may encounter.