Stay grounded in the air, on the road, or when the holidays call for a little zen.
When a quickie workout can’t quite curb holiday stress, fit bodies should turn inward. “Experienced meditators are like mental athletes,” says New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist Damon Bayles, Psy.D.
Building a meditation practice into your life can provide you a new baseline to work from, he explains. “Three months after beginning a practice is when we reach a level of proficiency and get benefits like increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and increased pain tolerance.”
And meditation doesn't need to be something you do in a quiet room by yourself in silence. It’s actually quite effective in the heat of a stressful moment. “Your feelings are your body’s response to what’s happening in your mind,” says Megan Monahan, a Chopra-certified meditation instructor and director of meditation at Los Angeles-based Wanderlust Hollywood.
Repeating positive affirmations to yourself can rewire your thoughts. “At a certain level of your mind, you don’t know the difference between pretending to believe something and believing something,” says Monahan. “Bringing in the repetition of a phrase, even if you don’t feel it, will help recalibrate how you’re feeling.” Practicing deep breathing can also help bring your body and mind down from the fight-or-flight stress response, calming you, she says.
So to power you through any situation the holidays may bring, try one of the below four meditations.
For each scenario, begin by stopping whatever you are doing and taking three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you inhale, focus on how you feel in the moment. As you exhale, repeat to yourself (silently or aloud) the provided affirmation. Repeat each sequence five times.
When You’re Stuck in Traffic
Affirmation: "Everything is unfolding in perfect timing and will be okay."
Why it works: The stress of being late can spiral into a tailspin of negative thoughts and bodily stress. This statement convinces your mind otherwise.
Tip: Since posture can play a role in stress, sit as straight as possible as if there’s an invisible string coming from the crown of your head elongating you. Placing both hands on the steering wheel, take a moment to feel all the points of contact with your body and the car, such as the feeling of the seat against your back.
When You’re at a Busy Airport
Affirmation: "I am here now in this moment.”
Why it works: We can feel ungrounded in groups of people or when there's a lot of movement and activity. This affirmation brings you back to your body and the moment.
Tip: Experiment with alternate-nostril breathing, a stress-relieving, mind-quieting technique. Make a peace sign with your right hand. Fold the two extended fingers down into your palm. Gently place your thumb onto your right nostril, and place your ring and pinky fingers onto your left nostril. Using your right thumb, gently close your right nostril, and slowly inhale through your left nostril. Then using your ring and pinky fingers, close your left nostril and release your right nostril, slowly exhaling through your right nostril.
When You’re Delayed on the Runway
Affirmation: "In this moment I am safe."
Why it works: Rather than giving into the tendency of projecting into the future or fixating on stress, this affirmation roots you in the present.
Tip: Close your eyes. This keeps the external environment — such as crying babies and new visual stimuli — out, allowing you to tune into your state of being.
When You’re Visiting Family
Affirmation: "No one can make me feel anything without my permission."
Why it works: By reminding yourself that you can control your reactions, you can maintain a state of calmness.
Tip: Set the lock screen on your phone as a helpful reminder like the phrase, ‘I choose how I feel’ using an app such as A Beautiful Mess or Word Swag. The more you can return to that grounding thought, the more ingrained it will become in you.