Stay Connected this Christmas

The social calendar fills up rapidly at this time of year although Christmas is, for some, not always an easy time of laughter and festivities. There can be the memories of a lost loved one or broken relationship, or the emotional strain of family coming together if there is discord.  So, amidst the spin of Xmas, how do you stay peaceful and well? How do you stay aware of what your needs are and maintain the nourishing and soul soothing habits that keep you feeling….well, merry? We all have our own Christmas traditions.  Ones we learnt as a child, and that our families have perpetuated over the years.  But I invite you to take a step outside of these habits and ask yourself…..”Do I still enjoy these traditions? Are they meaningful to me?  Or is it time to make my own new traditions that are aligned with who I am now, and how I wish to feel each and every day?”  This can be related to the foods you consume at Christmas or the present giving and receiving traditions in your family.  Is it time to upgrade your traditions? Perhaps recycle a gift or hand make something like some fresh pesto from abundant summer basil.  Consider giving the Earth the gift of not being an excessive consumer this Christmas.
When you slow down, step outside of the spin of commercial marketing and excessive social events and reside in the rhythm of nature, within you and around you, then you can choose your own traditions more easily and enjoy yourself without completely over doing it.   
Ayurveda has a word for overindulging…..prajnaparada.  This means crimes against wisdom or the choices we make when our habits or desires over ride our inner wisdom.  The ‘Oh I really am too full but that last mince pie looks so good and, well, it is Christmas, so I’ll just have to not let it go to waste’.  Except that it does go to waste.  Only that waste is created inside your body, and gunks up your channels, rather than being left for tomorrow, or to be food for the compost!  

Over eating is alluring at Christmas.  However it also is one of the major causes of feeling unwell or, when done often, developing disease.  And really, who wants to be sick during the holidays?  There are other ways of feeling nourished other than by food. We can feel nourished by warm-hearted company, open and true conversations and the beauty of nature. Notice the enjoyment of feeling nourished without over eating.  Many of our Christmas traditions still come from Europe and their winter climate.  Often Christmas involves rich, cooked and dense foods such as a roast meats, Christmas puddings or cake.  All of which are delicious. (I especially love mince pies!!) However this food is not appropriate for our summer season when the digestive fire is weaker than in winter when we can better handle these heavy and rich foods.  
Our culture tends to reinforce the idea that celebrations are coupled with substances that are really not so great for us.  Alcohol and sugar being the major players.  I invite you to stay connected to your body’s needs this year so you can choose Christmas traditions that make you feel good!  
Here are some Ayurvedic tips to help you stay well and energised over the silly season rather than feeling frazzled, stuffed, and disconnected from your true self.  They suggest working with your body rather than against it!  

  • Carve out a little time for yourself each day. Just 5 or even 2 minutes a day sit quietly, breathe and bring your focus inward. This is enough to bring your energy, your Prana, back into yourself to ground, nourish and revitalise. When we are constantly on the go our energy becomes scattered, leaving us feeling tired and frazzled.  You could focus on compassion, gratitude and peace firstly for yourself, then for your family (who you will no doubt be seeing more of during this time, for better or for worse!), then extend the wish for peace and compassion out to the world.  Morning is the best time to do this to start your day connected and in tune with yourself, but afternoon or evenings are good too…or both!! 
  • Respond to your body’s needs. Once you have tuned in you may be more aware of what you can do to make your day a good one. Feeling sluggish? Go for a walk or jog. Tired? Plan some time to rest.  Pushing on is also a crime against wisdom.  Our body is telling us something…..it needs a break, a chance to rest and refuel. You don’t expect your car to keep going without a service and a tune up.  So, why push your bodies to the limit before allowing time to rest.  
  • Be mindful of your eating habits.  Where possible, plan for your biggest meal to be in the middle of the day. This is when your digestion is strongest. Keep the evening meal early and light.  Consider adding more salads and lighter food to your Christmas day such as a Thai fish salad or a green salad with some roasted vegetables.  
  • If having those heavier foods add some spices such as ginger, black pepper and perhaps cumin and fennel.  Make a digestive tea with the above spices steeped in hot water to drink 15minutes before eating.  Enjoy the delicious cherries, mangos and other seasonal fruits separately as a snack rather than at the end of a meal when they tend to ferment in the gut and cause bloating.  
  • It is holiday time and that means time to have fun but also to rest and renew.  The year can get so very busy, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Your body functions best with regular rhythms of sleeping and eating called Dincharya in Ayurveda. There will be the inevitable late night gatherings, but have too many and notice how your daily rhythm starts to go awry disrupting digestion, deep sleep and creating either a state of irritation, feeling scattered or dullness depending on your tendency.   

Using your power of reflection, memory and response-ability (your ability to respond to how your body is feeling) you can notice how your actions/choices make you feel and how you can refine your choice next time so you don’t suffer the same exhaustion, poor digestion and bloating, irritation or dullness. Make your choices smarter! Make time to catch up on the rest you need, chillax and read a book, hang out at home with your kids, or go for a walk in nature.  
Make this Christmas a time of connecting with yourself, your loved ones and the Earth which gives us so much.  
Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy and happy Christmas.