by ToeSox Influencer Nichol Chase
During the holiday season I usually feel ungrounded. All of the holiday parties, shopping for presents, and travelling to see family make my schedule frenetic and unmanageable. There is too much to do and it seems impossible to keep up. I also struggle with how to feel about the holidays. I have moments of great joy reminiscing about the holidays of my childhood. At other times, I agonize over establishing my own traditions as an adult…which elements of my family’s traditions do I want to hold onto?...which would I rather let go? And of course, I stress over who to get presents for and what to get them. The list could go on...the holiday season is wonderful and dreadful at the same time.
Can you relate?
The good news is that we can all anticipate this is coming and work to change our perspective. And how do we change our perspective? By doubling down on practices that ground us, calm us, and clear our heads.
I am a yoga teacher, and my daily yoga and meditation practices save me at this time of year. I make my living teaching students about these subjects, so I know a thing or two about what it takes to integrate these practices into your life and how much it can benefit you. I want to share some tips about how to get started and how to continue after the holidays as well!
First, it is prudent to address the Elephant in the room…establishing daily practices and staying consistent is HARD! Ever made a New Year’s resolution you struggled to see through to its completion? Maybe it was something like this: “I will do a 30-minute seated meditation before bed every day next year” OR “I will do yoga for one hour every morning next year.”
You notice a pattern here? Most people get into trouble because their goals are too regimented. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to be specific about your goals. The examples above are far superior to these versions: “I will meditate on a regular basis next year” OR “I will do more yoga next year.”
However, when you are talking about establishing a daily practice it is helpful to be flexible. For example, let’s look at the first New Year’s resolution goal: “I will do a 30-minute seated meditation before bed every day next year.” What if you are out late and simply don’t have the energy to do your 30-minute seated meditation? I know if it were me, I would probably go to bed and feel tremendous guilt the next day. This guilt may even cause me to give up on the practice completely. By getting fixated on the specific parameters, you are setting yourself up for failure.
But what if you added this, “I will meditate every day next year – my preference is to do a 30-minute seated meditation before bed, but sometimes I will meditate for a shorter length of time or at a different time of day.”
Now this is more manageable. This way, if you know you are going to be out late, you can meditate in the morning. If you don’t have 30 minutes, you can meditate for 5. If you are tired in the evening, and want to meditate but can’t imagine sitting up to do it, meditate lying down. Heck, if you have a really busy day, meditate when you are on the toilet, meditate when you are alone in the elevator (I’ve done both of these btw).
The trick to staying consistent is identifying what the real aim is – I want to be a meditator – and finding ways to make it happen every day. Trust me, even one minute makes a difference.
Now, let me walk you through a few ways you can integrate meditation, yoga practice, and mindfulness into your day when you are busy; when you don’t feel like you have enough time. I’ll use myself as an example.
Here’s what I do on a busy day...
In the morning, I remind myself by making a list of the practices I would like to do. I carry the list with me throughout the day and check them off as I complete them. (I use the app ToDoist for this, but there are lots of other great apps out there, and there is always a pad of paper and pen!).
Then I execute:
I often start with meditation in the morning. I will look and see how much time I have before I need to be out the door, and I will meditate for that length of time. If I have 20 minutes, I will meditate for 20 minutes. If I have 10 minutes, I will meditate for 10 minutes. If I have 5 minutes...you get the idea. If I don’t meditate before I am out the door, I don’t beat myself up. Instead, I find a way to fit in at least one minute of meditation later in the day.
I use the same strategy when it comes to yoga. Of course, I love it when I have time to practice for 60 or 90 minutes at home or when I can go to a class in person. However, I don’t always have the time or energy to do this. On days I have less time or energy, I will carve out 5 to 10 minutes to do a few sun salutations and poses that ground me – in the morning, between classes, whenever I can fit it in.
Another daily practice of mine is mindful walking. I usually do my mindful walk outside, but on days it is too cold or raining or too hot, I do my walk inside. On these walks I connect to all my senses and slow down so I become very aware of how I am feeling and of my surroundings. It doesn’t have to take a long time. When I am really short on time, I walk mindfully from my car to the yoga studio to teach class. And it doesn’t have to be walking – the point is to be more mindful with one thing of your choice every day. This can be done with literally ANYTHING – you can make it your aim to mindfully cook, to mindfully wash the dishes, to mindfully drive the car. Pick something that you already do on a daily basis and make it more intentional and mindful. Over time you might find, without even trying, this trickles into other activities as well.
These practices are all about encouraging ourselves to slow down enough to disentangle from the stress that comes from obsessing over what we haven’t yet accomplished and incessantly planning for the future. Slowing down helps us to reduce our inner chatter and live in the present moment. Only in the present moment can we see things clearly and calmly make a plan to move forward. These practices are simple, but they work. Give it a try.
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