One of the most anticipated times of the year is the holiday season. We end each year with a crescendo of shopping, travel and celebration, all of which brings an abundance of joy, but also stress and disruption. In the aftermath, many of us find ourselves starting the new year depleted. A holiday hangover has a way of lasting well into January and it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. Even sitting here at my desk writing this article, I’m distracted by the events of the last couple of weeks—family gatherings, the exchange of gifts, the chaos of the house with kids home from school, my dwindling bank account and my growing To-Do List. As I sit squarely at the intersection of gratitude and exhaustion, I am reminded to lean into my yoga/meditation practice for tools to restore balance and energy.
As the great spiritual teacher Ram Dass says, “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family.” There’s no denying that our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, etc. have a way of triggering us. Our individual identities get subordinated to the family culture, and we often end up reacting and behaving like our 13-year-old selves, asking, “How did I get here again?” If this is you, it’s important to remember that there’s no urgency to fix anything or anyone. Your quickest path back to inner peace is the acceptance of family members as they are and the surrendering of your need for them to validate you. Remember: You are from them but not of them.
For some of us, the holidays bring the opposite challenge. Some of us are without family to spend time with. This might sound incredibly freeing to some of us burdened by the obligation of travel and having our emotional buttons pushed, but many people struggle with loneliness at a time when the cultural message is about togetherness. If this is you, remember that you are not alone in your aloneness, despite what social media and the advertising industry seem to indicate. If the sting of loneliness persists, look forward to the opportunity to cultivate community in 2017!
There’s nothing like the combination of time spend out of our regular routines and rich holiday food to make us feel sluggish and heavy. Personally, I swear I must have about five extra pounds of eggnog weight, and my motivation is apparently still on vacation! If you’re like me, the first thing is to meet the new year with compassion for yourself. After all, this is the time for fresh starts and resolutions. Avoid making the mistake of overcommitting. You don’t need to suddenly become a body builder or a marathon runner to make a workout worthwhile. In fact, I often begin the new year with a break from the gym and go on a gentle detox program. I commit to drinking eight 8oz. glasses of water a day, eating a daily portion of dark green vegetables and eliminate refined sugar. I do this for 2-4 weeks while I ease back into my more rigorous workout routine.
Perhaps the most elusive but certainly not the least important component of wellness is our spiritual life—whatever form that takes for you. What is most powerful as we slide into a new year is to become our own witness. As we navigate our lives from the trenches, we get so caught up in the day-to-day emotions and logistics of running the show that we forget to step back and see the larger context. Getting a bird’s eye look at any given situation allows us to shift perspective and detach from our own experience, which is often driven by an emotional response. This is particularly useful in the aftermath of the holiday season, whether it brought on a few weeks of escapism or an existential life review. Space and calm are paramount. Remember to schedule regular breaks to step outside, put your feet in the grass and your face in the sun. Step away from your devices and breathe. Even short break from the action can be a surprisingly effective recharge and rebalance.