Winter can bring a host of challenges. As the days grow shorter and colder we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, heavy and low. This is perfectly normal. However, right in the middle of this season falls Christmas and Hogmanay, where we are expected to be cheerful, happy and bright. Often this can lead to a lot of internal conflict, guilt and shame.
We feel guilty for not being festive or for feeling pressure and overwhelm to put on a happy face.
We feel shame for being a Scrooge when others seem so jolly.
We feel pressure to have the perfect home with the perfect tree. To be able to shop for all the things and wrap all the things and cook all the things without a hair out of place.
It isn’t surprising then that Christmas and/or New Year can often feel like a disappointment. We put so much pressure on ourselves to make it perfect that it is impossible to achieve. I personally love Christmas but I know that not everyone feels the same and even with a love for this season it is hard to maintain the festive spirit when you are worrying about pleasing everyone.
A Different Challenge
This year the season is made all the more difficult because there is so much we can’t do or don’t know yet if we’ll be able to do. Perhaps you’re more concerned about your health this year than before or have to tighten your belt because your work has been affected.
I would be lying if I said I had a way to make all those feelings or worries disappear. What I can tell you is that you cannot give to others before you take care of yourself. Or you can, but it will leave you feeling burnt out and alone.
I don’t want that for you. I want you to go into the Christmas holidays feeling the best you possibly can and knowing that even when you don’t feel good, you are still enough. You are worthy of care, kindness and love.
You Cannot Pour From An Empty Cup
This saying has become a little trite in recent times but it is nonetheless true – you cannot pour from an empty cup. So with that in mind below are a few tips and ideas to support you through the winter months and holiday season.
Movement is a wonderful way to support your body and mind through stressful times. While I’ll always recommend getting on your yoga mat, I also have a few other ways that I love to move my mood to lift my mood.
Dance in your kitchen, your car, the supermarket (…just me…?). Dance wherever you can. Put on your favourite album, playlist, radio station and move. I don’t care whether you think you have two left feet or you’re a regular dancing queen, feel the beat and dance.
While the weather may leave a lot to be desired, it is still a good idea to get out in nature and take a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long walk, you don’t have to go far but get going. Fresh air and nature are incredibly important when it comes to supporting our health, and a change of scene can be enough to change your perspective.
Working up a good sweat can be incredibly cathartic. Pick an activity you enjoy – aerobics, weights, running, cycling, etc. – and go for it for 30 minutes. Get your blood pumping and notice how that can change your mood.
During times of stress we can very often forget to breathe. Now obviously we are actually still breathing but we’re not mostly not doing it very efficiently at all. We hold our breath or breathe short and shallow, which stimulates our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze) and often leads to more feelings of anxiety.
While there are many great breathing techniques (Pranayama) that we can use in our yoga practice and off our mat to help in this area, nothing is more important than awareness. Only through awareness can we notice our tendencies and begin to affect change. So next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, pause for a moment and tune in to your breath. Notice where you’re breathing (which part of the torso the breath fills) and consciously deepen your breath. Slowly and without force invite the breath to deepen, then pay attention to any changes you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
Don’t you love when you’re you feeling stressed and someone says, “Just relax!” 😉 It is rarely helpful, however with the right direction it is a powerful way for us to relieve stress, anxiety and feeling low.
Before I get into some of the things I do to relax, I will say is that relaxing looks different for different people. Some people love a long bath and for others that seems like a colossal waste of time (anyone else have no patience?).
My top go-tos for relaxation are:
Pop on some Bach or Chillout Classics or one of our yoga playlists and let the music soothe you.
Sometimes getting what’s in your head down on paper can be incredibly freeing and creates space in the mind. Don’t overthink it, just start writing and see what comes out.
Making time to curl up with a good book is a great gift to give yourself. Don’t feel guilty for time spent reading, it is one of life’s great pleasures.
While I don’t recommend hiding from your responsibilities in your Netflix account, I do think it is important to make time for entertainment. Whether it’s a boxset, film, documentary or your favourite soap, you deserve to switch on and enjoy.
A good clear out can be good for the soul! Not only do you (literally) make space but the repetitiveness of the process can be incredibly meditative.
I will say that while some of this may be helpful for you to try, it’s always best to do what seems relaxing to you – whether that happens to be meditation, jigsaw puzzles, fishing, baking or getting caught up on your washing, it really doesn’t matter. Just make the time for yourself.
You Aren’t Alone!
I hope these ideas and tips help you to find some lightness during this time. If you are struggling then please don’t do it alone. Speak to your friends, your family, your doctor or one of the amazing organisations that support mental health.