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Tips to Relax During & After the Holidays

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe


This time of year comes with mixed feelings, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanza, Chanukah, Kwanza, the Summer or Winter Solstice, a family holiday, or simply the end of another calendar year, looking forward to a well-deserved break. There is excitement and expectations galore, but certainly also some negative stress: feeling overwhelmed, pressured, dreading the pending loneliness many of us feel, experiencing a sense of obligation, anxiety about finding gifts, crowded stores, financial worry, not having enough time, family dysfunction, and so on.

Symbolic meaning from different traditions

Learn about and then share with others, the spiritual and symbolic meaning of various practices from many traditions:

  • The candles are lit on Chanukah to symbolise the light of the Creator in our lives.
  • The Christmas wreath is a symbol of the eternal circle of life. Gifts are traditionally shared in commemoration of the birth of Christ, but also as expressions of caring, joyful sharing, gratitude, forgiveness and love.
  • The gifts shared during Kwanza represent the deep connection between parents and children. (Wikipedia: The name Kwanzaderives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest).

The time for deep rest and turning inwards is commemorated during the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and the bounty of summer and the harvest, in the Southern Hemisphere.

Our main challenge is that we have unreasonably high expectations of our holidays, especially the year end ones! They have to fulfil a year’s worth of neglecting our work-life balance and be the complete rebalance, rejuvenation, rest and recovery period!  Symbolically this is the end of the year and time for relaxation and to enjoy simple pleasures, to have renewed will power and energy to take on the New Year.  Why then do we often feel tired, pressured and even exhausted after a wonderful holiday?  You simply don’t have the energy to go back to work and you don’t even want to start thinking about the next 12 months!  Many people feel like you do – it is the holiday blues, a general and well-known phenomenon. You can do something to prevent this!

In my experience there are more requests for stress management consultations and workshops between January and March than any other months of the year.  Stress induced symptoms such as high blood pressure, eczema, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia also increase during January and February.  There are various stress factors that can contribute to these symptoms:  the holiday that you’ve been looking forward to for so long didn’t meet your expectations, all your accounts still need to be paid, old family problems reared its ugly heads again, and at work all your administrative duties including hundreds of e-mails greet you at the office, and your freedom gets restricted again while your co-worker’s irritations are showing up as the mirror reflections of your suppressed and denied issues.

Holidays and a new year mean change!   Any change – good or bad – creates or causes, distress.  The last week before your holiday is always a big blur trying to do and organise everything.

Stress less tips for the holidays and the New Year

  • Try to eat healthy on your holiday, lots of fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, nuts and seeds, fresh water and herbal teas (steep freshly grated ginger root, chamomile, rooibos, hibiscus flowers in boiling water, let it cool down, add raw honey, mint leaves, fresh cherries or strawberries, lemon slices and lots of ice) to drink. Most people stop taking their supplements during the holidays.  Remember to take supplements like vitamin-B complex (for the nervous system), antioxidants to neutralise the holiday over indulgence, Gingko biloba (for concentration), valerian and chamomile tea (to help calm you down), milk thistle (for detoxification and to help the liver rejuvenate) and calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids (for everything else!). Our Optimal Health Bundle supply everything you need in 3 easy steps.
  • Make a commitment to stick to your exercise program adapted to the holidays: try more yoga, swimming, dancing or walking.
  • Give yourself some time for introspection and being alone, to enjoy and experience all that is happening in your day.  Keep a dream diary next to your bed (over the holiday period and when you are back at work). Practise forgiveness, gratitude and bless all those around you, regardless of what you think or perceive they ever did, or are doing, to you. This will make you feel lighter and happier.
  • Treat yourself to a lovely bath (choose aromatherapy oils such as lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, chamomile and neroli) or deep tissue massage.
  • Care for yourself with a natural UV-protection moisturiser or tanning lotion applied to a smooth, well scrubbed body, deep facial cleanses and facial masks made of finely chopped cucumber, yogurt and lemon juice.
  • Read, write, dream and release your imagination and intuition
  • A short relaxation exercise totune in, and become calm and peaceful, turning your attention away from outside things, people and situations that upset you:
  • Sit quietly in a chair, bare feet on the floor, arms & hands relaxed
  • Tense the muscles in your feet. Then relax them. Do the same with your lower legs, then upper legs, then buttocks, tummy, chest, hands, neck, head and face
  • Take your attention to your breathing. Make it deep and slow. Count to 4 or 5 as you breathe in. Hold your breath for 2 to 3 counts. Then sigh your breath out while you count for 5, 6 or 7. Carry on doing this for 2 to 3 minutes
  • If your mind becomes filled with thoughts, simply let the thoughts flow by like clouds in the sky, and keep on bringing your attention back to your breathing
  • After 2, 3 or even 5 to10 minutes, become aware of your body, slowly open your eyes, stretch and carry on with your day as usual, feeling calmer and more relaxed than before you did the exercise. Do this every the morning and evening, and whenever you feel upset, tired or stressed

I developed a relaxation CD (also available as MP3 download) especially for you, to simply listen to, relax and unwind. It can also be a very meaningful gift.

  • Alone time, especially outside in nature, to give yourself some time out and a chance to focus on your soul centre and experience the here and now (the present moment) and to appreciate it.  Take these moments to set your values, beliefs, goals and priorities and find out what is important to you, what makes your heart sing.
  • If your family (including the children) become too demanding, or you feel resentful about cleaning and cooking, it is time for a family pow-wow to explain gently, yet assertively, how you feel. Create a chore schedule where everybody is responsible for certain duties/tasks (making coffee in the morning, washing the dishes etc.), or taking turns with meals.

This will ensure a happy time of connecting with yourself, close and extended family, and friends.

Be realistic: use the holidays to be yourself. Enjoy every day as it comes without expectations. Relax!

Wellness tips during and after the holidays

  • Empty your inner thoughts and feelings in your journal – dreams, emotions, joys and sadness
  • Envision and feel your dreams and daydreams – it is the symbols from within your soul.
  • Spend time thinking about the past year. Set your goals: short, medium and long term.
  • Enjoy ‘me’ time every day – we are human-beings and not human-doings
  • Enjoy eating healthy foods, exercise regularly, use the right herbs and supplements
  • Create special time for stress management and relaxation therapies

Suggestions for cravings: 

  • Uncontrollable urges for sweet things can imply deficiencies of chromium, vanadium and molibdenum  – use as part of a daily antioxidant. Low fat choices for intense constant urges for sweet things are: fruit, rice-cakes with a carob layer, low-fat yogurt, jelly-babies (only 6!), and dried fruit. Try our Appetrol with Hoodia gordonii and Garcinia cambogia to curb your appetite naturally.
  • A craving for something non-specifically may indicate a need for water – drink a full glass (1 glass of water per 10kg of body weight). An intense constant craving for chocolate, can indicate a magnesium deficiency. Remember to always take calcium and magnesium in the correct ratio and in an amino acid chelated form, combined with vitamin D, boron, vitamin C and potassium.

Practicing gratitude during the holidays means not only to show appreciation for the material gifts, but also for all the many intangible blessings in our lives. Give gifts from the heart that show how grateful you are to have your loved ones in your life.  You can empower yourself and loved ones with tools to make the holidays more meaningful by doing something special for the less fortunate, such as spending time with a lonely elderly person in an old-age home, or giving groceries to someone less fortunate than you are. 

Celebrate differences because we can only truly come together in unity once we embrace these differences. You essentially need to slow down enough to enjoy the essence of your loved ones and of the holidays.  Our children, families and friends are at the heart of rediscovering the true meaning of the holidays, as one of love, rest, recovery and reflection.