Just Say ‘No’ — And Four Other Tips to Help Beat Holiday Stress

Simple ways to carve out some much-needed "you" time.

Photo: Getty Images

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The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler, which means the holidays are on their way! If you’re starting to feel the stress of planning, cooking, shopping, etc., you’re certainly not alone. But returning to your practice can help you not only beat holiday stress, but also stay true to yourself. Here, yoga teacher and licensed therapist Kristin Calabria, founder of the B.R.I.D.G.E. Lab Foundation, shares five ways to calm down as holiday chaos ramps up.

1. Center yourself with a grounding, restorative yoga practice.

As we get closer to the holiday season, usually the energy in the yoga room is more frantic and forceful: Students want to push and maximize the time we’re spending in the studio. I often structure classes as a way to gain a different perspective through creative and challenging sequencing aimed at centering and grounding. I’m also very particular about including a longer restorative sequence at the end of practice. The things that we are not naturally inclined toward are usually the things we need to practice the most. Surrender and non-effort can be challenging, especially during the holiday season, and so to practice “softness” can be incredibly powerful and transformative for students.

2. Flip your stress on its head.

There is nothing that makes me reconnect to the earth beneath me more than inversions. When I’m stressed, when I’m anxious, when I’m nervous, when my mind is everywhere except for where I am, I carve out time to go upside down. Inversions ask us to stay completely in the present moment, or risk falling. They ask us to find the ground in ways opposite to our habitual. This practiced focus feels like a sigh of relief to me, and allows me to go back into the rest of my day with more grace.

3. Use essential oils.

Essential oils stimulate a specific energy or way of being in the world. They evoke feelings and sensations. In the yoga practice, they’re a great way to awaken all of our senses to truly create a completely immersive experience. New York City functions at a higher frequency than almost any other city in the world. Because lavender essential oil is used to calm, I carry it around with me at all times and use it liberally: in Savasana assists, in a diffuser for my home and office, on the subway during rush hour when people get crazy, or if I’m having trouble falling asleep.


4. “Meditate” in a way that brings you joy.

Meditation is part of my daily practice, but it takes many different forms. Sometimes meditation for me is writing in a gratitude journal, or a free write about a specific chakra or element of the practice. Sometimes it’s listening to a guided meditation, and sometimes it’s mantra-focused. I find the need for stillness or grounded focus is more prominent during the hectic holiday season. Especially if meditation is not something you practice often, it can feel overwhelming to sit and breathe for any amount of time. We each have our own way into the meditation practice. It doesn’t have to look like sitting and breathing, although it can. Do you find that sense of focused awareness in painting or playing music? Then that’s your way in! Find the version of meditation that resonates with you, and it will feel less like a “should” and more like a joy.

5. Give yourself permission to say “no,” and take time for yourself.

My holidays are usually hectic. For me, that means a ton of late nights and early mornings. I give myself permission to say “no” to events that will wind up making me feel incredibly stressed. There are a few things I do every day that allow me to feel at home in myself and energetically full, like spending a good chunk of time alone and unplugging (which means no social media, no emails, no calls, and no texts).

I also practice every day; that could look like a typical yoga class, or a 20-minute sequence filled with exploring all ranges of motion in the spine, a few restorative postures, and a supported Fish Pose. I read small pieces of wisdom (think Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Relax). I put on my favorite song and have a private dance party. This may seem like a long list, but imagine how magical your day would be if every few hours, you sprinkled in an action that filled you with joy and allowed you to come back to your authentic self? This joyful activity could be as simple as mixing a few drops of essential oils, like peppermint, cinnamon, and sweet orange, and putting them in a diffuser to set the mood for the holidays.


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