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Holiday Guide

How to Keep the Peace During the Holiday Season

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Each year the holiday season can bring with it joy and cheer. Even during the most amazing of festivities, it is easy to get lost in your to-do list and serving others, while forgetting to take time for yourself. We sat down with Denise Evans, a yoga instructor from Keyano College’s Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre (SSWC), to get some tips on how to keep the peace over the holidays.

“The holiday season can be a challenging time to find a balance in giving to others while also giving to yourself,” says Denise. “During this time it becomes really important to be able to take a step back and evaluate where you are placing your energy and why. The constant giving away of your time and energy with none left for yourself eventually can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and even depression.”

For the past two years, Denise has taught a Flow and Restore class on Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the SSWC. Denise thoroughly enjoys the people that come to her classes. They arrive in every body type, age, and gender, each adding their own personal touch to their practice, which she says is wonderful to see. 

“One  technique to help calm your mind in stressful times is to simply breathe. Breathe in through the nose long, slow, steady, inhales and then breathe out through the nose long, slow, steady, exhales,” she explains. “As much as possible keep your mind and thoughts on the sound and length of your breaths and continue this pattern until you feel calm again. This practice helps to bring your body and your mind back into a peaceful state, giving you the ability to complete whatever task you are working at from a new perspective.”

Denise acknowledges that sleep tends to become disrupted during the busier seasons. Thoughts continue to swirl around in our minds even when we are trying to get to sleep. 

“Removing all sources of electronic stimulation to the brain such as phones, tablets, computers, television, can help to settle a restless mind,” she explains. “A yoga posture called Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall, can also help to settle the nervous system down.” 

A close friend of Denise’s brought her to her very first Yoga class and from that moment on she was hooked. The yoga practice brought into her life a new way to gently move the body, a balance of strength, softness, and eventually even some peace. 

She sees similar changes in her students: “In the beginning, there is a desire to look like everyone else, get the pose to its deepest level and in essence seek a certain kind of perfection. Over time a shift begins to happen and the practice starts taking on a more personal feel, adjusting body parts to make the movements work for their bodies and being ok with that. The end result being a peaceful state of mind and body.”

Denise suggests being choosy with how you spend your free time over the holidays. She encourages you to dedicate some part of your day to yourself, doing something that brings you joy and makes you feel fabulous. She explains a regular exercise practice, in whatever you choose, aids the body in ridding itself of stress and nervous energy. All these things will help to contribute to a more successful transition through the holiday season.

Denise concludes: “Most of all, stop beating yourself up; when you slip and slide out of routine remember you are human and as humans, we all have our ups and downs. If you are going to have the cake, the cookies, whatever your choice is, enjoy it! Then, in that effort to always be seeking balance in your life, counter that sweet treat with a healthy walk in the great outdoors, soaking in the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air.” 

As much as possible, enjoy your life, enjoy being you and then take your wonder self and share what you have with someone who could use a helping hand this holiday season. Join Denise for her class at the SSWC. Find more information here:

Photo: Viparita Karani

Simply lie on your back close to a wall, snuggle your bum as close as you can, maybe even touching the wall, and then extend both of your legs towards the ceiling and let them rest against the wall. If your bum does not come all the way to the wall no big deal, just make sure that you are feeling no discomfort in the low back and that you are feeling a gentle stretch to the backs of your thighs. A pillow can also be placed under the hips to elevate them and take strain away from the back and hamstrings.