6 Simple Ways to Maintain Balance (or Sanity) this Holiday Season

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Walking Zoe & Cali last week

Many of you know that my dad passed away this year. I have to count on 3 hands my friends who are also celebrating their first holidays with one fewer parent. It isn’t easy, this “Year of Firsts”. As we move through December, I know I will need to find some time to step away from the myriad of activities and stress that comes with the holiday season.

Even in a normal year, the end of year pressures can be great. Here are 6 easy ideas to try for a 30-60 minute inexpensive escape.

  1. Spend an hour alone in a coffee shop, with NO electronic media unless you need music to distract from other patrons. Write, read, stare out the window.
  2. Go for a winter walk. 
  3. Practice yoga.  According to The Mayo Clinic, yoga helps to relieve stress, find focus, and improve flexibility.  Ironically, I just got an offer today to sign up for a free 21-day session on Wanderlust, starting in January.   Feel free to join up, if you want to start a yoga practice at home.
  4. If you only have 5-10 minutes to spare, meditation offers many similar benefits. If you think you can’t meditate, all the more reason you should try it. (I was one of those people; I can’t sit still!) Simply sit or lay quietly, close your eyes, hands facing up to accept more energy from around you. TRY to clear your mind, but if a thought wanders in, accept it and let it flow on. Start to breathe deeper—to your belly and collar bones. A really informative post about the benefits of meditation can be found on the Live and Dare website.
  5. Pay it forward. Whether you work with an organization or do a simple gesture to a stranger, your spirit will soar.
  6. Dance party–turn up your music to your favorite song and move those feet! Or just sing along. If you are by yourself, no one will ever know if you have no rhythm or sing off-key.

You are not alone in stress or loss this year. Know that it is okay to say NO to attending events. Every party, gathering, obligation does not require a yes response. Not overloading is the key to enjoying the next 30 days.

C

P.S.  Dogs encourage you to go out and walk all year round.  There are many of shelter dogs and organizations willing to help match you with your perfect Furrever friend this holiday season.

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Building Core Strengths

Tipping over in tree pose this week, I was again reminded how important core strength is.  Standing, for this yoga move I can place one leg up onto my other inner thigh, but lifting my arms or holding them out to the sides challenges me each time I try it.  I wobble, I rock, I slip.

I need to re-build my abdominal strength (after several months of doctor-required rest) so that I can hold this pose successfully without shaking.  And with a stronger core I will be able to attempt moves that remain in my past.

The same is true for starting to ride horses after a 5-month forced sabbatical.  I warm up longer, re-learn the muscle memory, slowly leave my comfort zone as my body becomes stronger, leaner.

The core.  The center. We all need to keep our cores strong, as positive energy and actions build and emanate from our core.

I think this is also true in our personal and business lives.  Running my own business, I have a set of core strengths, learned from consulting in media firms for almost 15 years.  But as technology has transformed the publishing industry (like most others), my projects have morphed, roles changed, involvement growing in newly developed areas.

While I continue to use the talents developed over the years, I continue to expand my strengths. I have stayed abreast with the industry changes—many coming from social media and new mobile apps—so that I can broaden my work into other industries.

If I don’t keep learning, pushing myself, I become weak, bored, complacent.  And that will not help me or my clients test new arenas, find unexpected successes, as we keep up with changing business times.

Yes, it can be intimidating, sometimes frustrating, building my core strengths—both mental and physical– to reach a new client, to attempt a handstand, to jump a short course.  But by working slowly, patiently, and celebrating the small successes, hopefully all of these will be attainable.  The reach is what keeps life engaging.  C

Corpse Pose

Savasana or corpse pose.  You would think that the relaxation of savasana at the end of practice, laying on the floor with eyes closed, would be the simplest of all the poses.  Physically, it doesn’t get much easier than this.  Secretly, after a challenging workout, I look forward to the few minutes to stretch out with no one demanding, no phones, no computer, no “Mom”.

But, mentally, it consistently slays me how hard this pose is.  Most days, I find it virtually impossible to clear my mind doing savasana,  even focusing solely on my breathing.  I try, but streams of life outside the studio keep sneaking into my brain.  It is so hard to be in-the-moment, knowing that life is banging outside the door, my private time almost over.

I try to force any rational thought from my mind, enjoy the end of my routine—whether in class or at home alone.  And after a couple extremely stressful work nights, try to stay awake.

It is hard to rationalize that doing absolutely nothing is so difficult.  But it is. Namaste. C

The Stretch

Doing unsupported headstands in my 40’s?  Backbends? Trying again and again  unsuccessfully to do a handstand with no wall support (another day).

Riding horses, what to work on today stuck in an indoor arena all winter? Practice something different each ride–curves and straight movements, lateral maneuvers, tempo of the ride.

Trying to challenge the limitations we put on our capabilities can be daunting, but each stretch brings a reward of the mental, the physical.  Sometimes we move too fast, too dangerous, and we back up slowly, start anew,  but  slowly move back to starting position, then ahead–testing, convincing, reminding us that life is a journey yet completed.

It is what keeps us young, life vibrant, talk and actions interesting.  And as we move from working within our spirits to the larger community outside, our souls soar.  Try something new today.  Tomorrow.  C

The Horse and the Floor

Riding horses–16 years.  Yoga–3 months.

I started doing yoga several months ago to vary my workout routine. While I am now practiced in some of the poses–now knowing the differences between the downward facing dog, monkey, happy baby, child’s, forward and reverse warrior poses and others I can but some I would never attempt to pronounce, I am more flexible, the class flies by (and I HATE gym glasses, always have except for my riding lessons) but I cannot fathom doing yoga without an instructor right now.  I am still a newbie, basically a clueless follower.

A far more skilled rider, during my lesson this week with a new instructor while mine is traveling, there was an instruction of “relax your back” that immediately made me think about how much these two seemingly differing sports are alike.  They are both mind sports, as well as grueling physical sports that use muscles once unknown to me (and are both sports that people question “is that really exercise?”)

To succeed in both, I need to be truly “in the moment” leaving all troubles, issues, work, family out of my mind. I have to think–but clear the mind–to be free.  And it is possible. One small physical change–flexing the feet in yoga-dropping weight to the ankles in riding, walk the fingers to stretch to wide straddle-loosen the fingers on the reins, breathe, can have a huge impact on the experience.  Core strength is critical for success in both, one reason I began yoga. And I feel a sense of peace, of contentment, of completeness when complete with both.

I still don’t get as much endorphin-high after yoga class as I do when I have a great ride–less to conquer, less danger, less adrenaline rush; there are no warm-blooded animals to routinely brush and outfit and clean up after, but I truly enjoy yoga: the search, the poses, the stretching, the camaraderie.  Both sports are centuries old, and I can see why they have endured  for many years as recreational pursuits. C