With Thanksgiving behind us, the holidays are well underway! Does that thought provoke tummy tension or fill you with childlike excitement? Judging by the plethora of “Holiday Blues” discussions, many of us can find this time of year stressful, as much as we enjoy it too.
Since you know I’m an Ayurvedic and Western physician, you won’t be surprised when I point out that all the holiday shopping, family visits, and travel can “aggravate Vata,” which means they put our nerves and hormones into overdrive.
Sound familiar? Feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, and stressed out can send our neuroendocrine system into high gear. This can disturb our sleep, mood, immunity—and, yes, happiness itself.
The good news is that while holiday stress may have no clear antidote, a Vata imbalance is easy to correct. Let’s hit the high points here. I know you want to get back to enjoying the season!
Excess stress can create excess Vata in the mind and body. Here are 5 tips to reduce and balance Vata in the holiday season…
Tip 1: Maintain Balance with Twice-Daily TM, a Good Routine, and Warm Meals
Remember the Ayurvedic principle of opposites, which says that to balance something, you apply opposing measures. Vata is irregular, light, cold, dry, rough, and changeable. So what balances our Vata, keeps our immunity strong, and helps us feel more blissful is providing the opposite measures:
- Make your Transcendental Meditation practice a priority, twice a day. This is the most important tip for emotional balance I can give. My patients often tell me that they get more than twice the benefit when they do TM twice a day, not just once.
- Follow a regular routine, including regular mealtimes and bedtimes.
- Eat warm, moist, cooked foods that are rich in healthy fats (such as olive and sesame oil) at each meal. At this time of year, avoid making salad or raw vegetables your entire meal.
- Enjoy hot drinks, such as herbal teas and hot water (see Tip 2), which promote good digestion while they calm our nerves.
Tip 2: Sip Hot Water for Energy and Immunity
Feeling heavy? One of the stresses many of us experience during the holidays comes from resisting all the tempting sweets and treats. Limiting sugar helps keep our gut (digestive tract) and brain healthy, and our inflammation and waistlines in check.
Sipping boiled hot water during the day can curb cravings, increase satiety, and increase our energy and immunity. Here’s how:
- Boil pure, genuine spring water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the freshly boiled water into a clean stainless or glass-lined thermos.
- Sip throughout the day, at least ¼ cup every half hour. You will find your energy soar and your tastes spontaneously shift towards healthier choices.
- For an extra immune-boosting “kick” to your digestive fire, drop a slice of fresh, peeled ginger root into a quart of boiled hot water, put in a thermos, and sip throughout the day.
- Add a few green cardamom pods, a sprig of fresh, organic mint, and a pinch of coriander seeds (for detoxing). This combo gives you a refreshing, stress-relieving alternative to the congesting, immune-busting, high-calorie nogs and grogs that abound at holiday parties.
Tip 3: Plan Ahead—It’s Never Too Late!
Here’s my favorite! It sounds so simple, but not for the Vata-challenged: Plan ahead. Pace yourself for all you need to get done. Last-minute shopping, packing, and preparing can really throw us off balance and put us at risk of catching a cold or flu.
There’s still time to get on top of things:
- Note in your calendar when to order the special foods you want this year.
- Make sure your favorite holiday outfits are ready, clean, in one piece, or ordered in time to alter or exchange.
- Purchase or make gifts early.
Tip 4: Follow a Routine in Tune with Your Biorhythms
Keeping a good daily routine that’s in tune with our body’s biorhythms during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can help us stay centered and grounded. This helps us thrive and enjoy whatever extra activities or festivities we have planned. As Ayurveda described 5,000 years ago, our body has specific rhythms, and certain times of day are better for various activities. Here are the four most important Maharishi AyurVeda® recommendations for your daily routine:
- Take your main meal at noon.
- Go to bed by 10:00 pm
- Exercise during Kapha time, 6–10 am and 6–10 pm
- Practice the TM technique morning and evening. (See Tip 1)
Eating your main meal in the middle of the day has been shown by modern research to help keep your weight down. For example, in the International Journal of Obesity, a study of 420 subjects showed that those eating the majority of their calories before 3:00 pm had more and quicker weight loss than those eating the majority of their calories after 3:00 pm.1
Research also shows that early bedtime has positive benefits. A national longitudinal study of teen health compared students who went to bed at 10:00 pm to those going to bed at midnight. Students with the later bedtime were shown to be 24 percent more inclined to be depressed and 20 percent more inclined to have suicidal thoughts.2
My last article discussed in depth the value of exercising during Kapha time (6:00 to 10:00 morning or evening). A study on nighttime blood pressure, for example, found that exercising during these times supported the most healthy reaction in the body during sleep.3
When we eat, sleep, and exercise at the time that matches our body’s natural biorhythm, then we feel our best.
The relatively new field of chronobiology is validating many of these ancient Ayurvedic ideas about optimal timing for daily activities through modern research and studies.
Tip 5: Stress-Free Emotions for Holiday Ease
One of my favorite stress-busters is a product that I consider to be one of the most effective herbs out there—Stress-Free Emotions by VPK. (See link at end of article for your reader discount.) People consistently tell me that after taking this supplement, they feel less stressed, irritable, or moody.
Among other herbs, Stress-Free Emotions contains cabbage rose. Maharishi AyurVeda explains that roses cool and soothe the emotional heart. Pitta Tea, another VPK product, also calms irritability. (Pitta, like fire, is hot, sharp, and governs heat.) One young couple I saw recently reported that when their parents visit now, they drink Pitta Tea. They don’t get as irritable as they used to and have a much better time together.
Radiate Bliss This Holiday Season
You can keep your emotions cool and your heart warm by following the simple tips in this article:
- Practice TM regularly and maintain your balance with a good routine and warm meals.
- Drink hot water to increase your energy and immunity.
- Plan ahead.
- Follow a healthy routine in tune with your biorhythms.
- Have extra herbs available to smooth out any glitches.
The holidays are such a wonderful time to spend with loved ones. The best gift we can give ourselves and those we love is ourselves—blissful, radiant, healthy, and loving.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones the happiest, healthiest, and most magical of holidays yet!
- Garaulet, M., Gómez-Abellán, P., Alburquerque-Béjar, J.J., Lee, Y-C., Ordovás, J.M., and, Scheer, F.A.J.L. International Journal of Obesity 37, 604-611 (April 2013.)
- National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health—USA– 1994-1996; Sleep, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2010; Gangwisch, James E., Ph.D., et al Columbia U., NY.
- Fairbrother K., Cartner B., Alley J.R., Curry C.D., Dickinson D.L., Morris D.M., Collier S.R. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure. Vascular Health and Risk Management. Dec 12, 2014.
* If you have a health condition or take medication, please consult your physician before adopting any new dietary recommendations. Although unlikely, if any discomfort occurs, discontinue the above recommendations.
Best-selling author Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., has been an Ayurvedic practitioner for more than 30 years and is recognized as one of the nation’s most prominent Ayurvedic doctors. She teaches Maharishi AyurVeda® in affiliation with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Integrative Medicine. A frequent speaker on national media, she continues her private practice in integrative medicine and Ayurveda, including Wellness Consultations in person or by phone. For more information on Dr. Lonsdorf’s practice, visit www.drlonsdorf.com. To schedule an Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation by phone or teleconference, please contact Dr. Lonsdorf’s office at 641-469-3174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2017, Nancy K. Lonsdorf, M.D. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission of the author.