This tends to be the time of year when the emotions are amp up and heart strings are pulled more easily. It can be a stimulating and anxiety provoking time of year because of all the holiday's in a short period of time but it can also be a heavy time of year because of old wounds, grievances, new wounds and new grievances; along with progressing into the darkest time of the year due to less sunlight, all of which can lead to depression. Both of these circumstances are rooted in a form of stress and it's important to have an awareness and mindfulness of not only the magic but also the gift in the challenges brought upon during this time of year.
Here are a few simple tasks to implement that support the process and ensure more balance:
1) AWARENESS: Simply and daily draw attention to your actual heart (Preferably eyes closed.) Notice what emotions are coming up and present in the moment.
2) SLOW: Slow down so that you can be more attune to #1 and to smell the roses.
3) PACE: Take the time and pace yourself. Don't let the holiday's run with you because they will run over you and you'll feel depleted and then crash, as most do after the New Year, if not before then. Make efforts not to get pulled into the holiday vortex. It has a momentum of its own and can easily pull many of us in. By not getting sucked into you we can actually celebrate the meaning of the holiday that exists beyond the capitalism, where the root of traditions resides. Have a glass of wine here and there. Wine supports heart health. Red more for Vata and Kapha types. White for Pitta predominant types.
4) WINE: Have a glass of wine here and there. Wine supports heart health. Red more for Vata and Kapha types. White for Pitta predominant types. We can feel warm and cozy on the inside.
5) JOY: We can find joy in enjoyment by being playful, light and silly. Think of something that your inner child use to do that contained these three qualities and just do it. Don't think about it it. Remember, children don't really think like we adults do. When we lose touch with the childishness within us we become more rigid and hardened. Children are flexible, pliable, innovative, creative and filled with energy, generally. By inviting this within us we will notice a difference in our being. Our bodies will respond more differently and eventually thank us. Hardened adults exist when they lose touch with the joy that comes from the heart.
6) DRIKING, EATING and SLEEPING: On a physical level, pace yourself with the drinking of alcohol and eating, and ensure that you're still getting adequate rest (remember that this is still the time of year that for thousands of years we would hibernate so the body on a cellular and genetic level hasn't forgotten). Over indulging in drinking can stress the liver and kidneys which are the filtration organs of the body. Alcohol contains high levels of sugar and fermentation which disrupts the natural ecology of the microbiome of the entire digestive system, thereby affecting the heart inevitably. As for over eating and/or over indulging in treats and sweets they can can quickly add up to lymphatic congestion due to digestive repression which easily and eventually draws illness towards us. Minimize the intake of heavy foods and sweets, including pastries, especially when we feel drawn to such things due to emotional eating. First is the awareness that there is a connection between emotions and eating and then the next step is improving upon the choices that direct us towards healthier eating and addressing the emotional woes through a more constructive means, such as therapy or sharing thoughts with supportive friends. As for losing sleep, this only speeds up the process and immunity is further compromised. Ensure that you are taking proper rest and not burning the candle from both ends. An occasional power nap in the later afternoon, for 15-20 minutes (but not immediately after food) can refresh us.
7) LAYING OF HANDS: If/when you notice tension around the heart, place your palms, starting with your left, on your heart and close your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and slowing down to what is there. Take the time to do this because you deserve it. The more we connect with our own heart, the more we can connect with others. This is the Heart Language. Furthermore, we can perform such a powerful technique by holding a space where we can simply have someone lay down and we place our hands on their heart. Both closing the eyes and begin aligning the two breaths together. It will be an amazing experience!
8) WARMTH: If you have a heating pad or pouch/pillow made of flax seeds for instance (you can warm it up in a microwave- since this is all microwaves are good for) and you can then apply this warm cushion or pouch upon the heart while resting in a supine position. This warmth will feel amazing!
9) ROSE: Find pure Rose oil or Rose Oil combined with Sandalwood and take a dab of the oil, apply it to the point between the eye brows and the few points along the sternum (center of the chest) near the heart. You can also add a dab on the heart itself. The rose is a profound symbol that represents a heart that is opening when it is in bloom.
10) SELFLESS SERVICE: Perform acts of kindness with love, including words. Since stress levels increase this time of year we tend to forget and become overwhelmed, therefore causing us to have reactions that cause us to behave unkindly. We act out. But if we are aware of what our heart is feeling and ask ourselves for what we are really needing in the moment at the most basic level we; and if we can sink into the warm and fuzzy feeling of love, then the actions we perform will come from a loving place and will dissipate the tension around the heart so the heart can beat freely and breathe deeply. Remember, if we come from a loving place within, we can melt our own tension. If we approach others from a loving place, we may help to soften them as well and help them to sink in. (I don't know, it's a suggestion/possibility that's worth a try. No?)
11) WHOLE HEARTED: Do things out of love and not obligation. Remember that love isn't necessarily obligatory and the first obligation is to the self and self-care. Obligation can sometimes come across with expectations and love doesn't really expect of us anything except to be exactly who we are right now. Sometimes self-care can appear as selfishness but there's no point in doing anything for anyone if we lose ourselves in the process. Love doesn't ask us to lose ourselves, only those ego attachments that prevent us from opening ourselves wider. It is better to show up wholehearted, versus half-hearted. No?
12) GIVING: Volunteer for some charity where you can and if you feel called to doing so. Volunteering is a divine act. It can usually take us out of ourselves and our heads and put us back in our hearts when we can contribute to someone else's moment of joy and connection.
13) EXERCISE: Raise the heart rate regularly but not through bad stress. The good stress involves exercise and raising the heart rate daily, if not at least 3-4 times a week for a minimum of 15-20 minutes, which helps to strengthen the heart by stimulating the cardiovascular system.
14) STRETCHES: A couple simple yoga poses (stretches) to practice with would be Camel Pose (Ustrasana) and Fish Pose (Matsyasana.) They both help to expand the heart area. Remember to breathe deeply. Another option is to take to yoga blocks and create a "Heart-Bench" by placing one block either vertically or horizontally, depending on spine flexibility, between the shoulder blades and aligning with the spine and the other block beneath the head, either horizontally or vertically and depending on flexibility of the neck/head.
15) INNER CHILD: Something else that tends to go unnoticed but is deserving of caring attention is to have an awareness of and a relationship with the inner child that still resides in all of us. She/He lives in our heart. All we have to do to start the process is picture them within and slowly go from there. She/He will be happy you did. So will you. The heart houses our child. Such a delicate treat. It is important to consider this to bring ease and joy into our lives more. Ask your inner child "what is it that you need right now?", especially if it seems as though something is surfacing for you. This inner work can go a long way and soften us, softening our edges in life.
Disclaimer: the above recommendations are meant for educational purposes only. If there is any uncertainty with regard to some of this information or if there are any pre-existing conditions or limitations that you are aware of please check with your primary healthcare provider for supervision and/or guidance.