As we approach the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, we feel the velvety weight of darkness ushering us into hibernation. Winter is coming, and with it, a primal need to rest, restore, and reflect. Yet, just when we should be slowing down, we often speed up for the holiday season.
Even the most festive occasions and best-laid plans can feel stressful this time of year.
When my son was two-years-old, I looked forward to my family’s annual holiday gathering with mounting anticipation. Exhausted from motherhood (and toddlerhood), I couldn’t wait for a trip to the mountains—and the support and comfort of my parents and older siblings. I really needed a break.
There was a break, but not one anybody would hope for. On the second day of our getaway, my sister broke her leg skiing. She underwent an extensive surgery with multiple plates and screws. She was traumatized. We all were. Barely holding it together, I felt as though I might shatter, just like my sister’s bones.
A few days later, on the Winter Solstice, a heavy snow fell outside. My son was finally fast asleep, and the house was loud and thick with concern. I bundled up, pulled on my boots, and headed out into the darkest night with a desperate need for solace. I was struck by the quiet, and walked for a long time. Eventually, I laid down on a soft mound of snow.
Gazing up at the sky, I settled into the stillness of my surroundings. The downy flakes fell gently on my face. The silent night was interrupted only by the welcome sound of my own breath. I tasted the chill air on my tongue. The cold was incensed with burning wood from a nearby fireplace. Completely immersed in the present moment, I felt at peace.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed this season, try tuning in through your senses. Taking a cue from Ayurveda, absorb nourishment through your nose, mouth, eyes, skin, and ears. Let your body guide you back to center. Here are some tools to consider weaving into your days.
Have rose or jasmine essential oil on hand. Tuck a bottle into your pocket or bag. Pull it out whenever you need a little sweetness. Close your eyes and inhale the soothing scent through your nose.
Keep the ingredients for golden milk in your kitchen. Enjoy the delicious, anti-inflammatory blend of milk, turmeric, black peppercorns, ginger, and other spices. Some recipes call for ghee and honey. Sip it slowly, savoring the warmth and flavors.
Notice what you’re taking in through your eyes. Spend less time at the movies watching action films, and more time in nature appreciating Earth’s beauty. Step outside and look at the texture of a frozen pond or the resilience of an evergreen tree.
Treat yourself to an oil massage, perhaps sesame or almond for the winter. Start with the soles of your feet, and lovingly work your way up to the crown of your head. Let the oil sink in and nourish your skin for awhile. Follow up with a warm bath or shower.
Give yourself the gift of “Weightless” this holiday season. The song was created with the sole intention of bringing about relaxation. It was developed in collaboration with sound therapists to reduce stress and anxiety.
For tidings of comfort and joy this winter, settle into your senses.
Megan DeRosa, MA, C-IAYT, RYT-500 is a yoga therapist, teacher, and lifelong student. Sharing both ancient truths and research-backed tools in an approachable way, she guides others to access more ease, connection, and joy in everyday life. Along with yoga, her work is inspired by a graduate degree in holistic health and healing, certifications in life coaching and Reiki, a background in science, and her experiences as a mom and human. Learn more about her offerings, writings, and story at www.meganderosa.com.
(Note: A version of this article was originally published with Thrive Global.)