20 Nov The Complete Guide to Staying Balanced This Holiday Season
One of the coolest things (no pun intended) about living in Asheville is the striking seasonal shift we get to witness throughout the year. As the hot, muggy summer gives way to the reds and golds of Southern Appalachia, the cool, dry air is a welcome respite.
With change comes a feeling of newness and excitement.
But change can also bring chaos and uncertainty.
During a seasonal shift, our bodies are also experiencing change. Remember, the body strives for homeostasis—balance.
When it gets cold outside, we shiver to create heat. When we have an intense day at work, our first instinct is to change into our PJs and veg out for the night. And as we move into the flurry of holiday activity, we crave stability and ease.
Traditional cultures identified this time of year as the Vata season (or Air, or Metal). This is a time of profound change, and it’s especially important to be aware of your internal and external balance.
This is also a time of the harvest, abundance, and sharing hearth and food with friends and loved ones. From Thanksgiving to Winter Solstice to the New Year, it’s time to celebrate the fruits of your labor and bring completion to the previous months of hard work.
Unfortunately, many of us arrive at January 1st feeling sluggish, sick, and guilty for eating all that pie.
How can you remain vibrant and alive during this exciting yet challenging time?
Here are some practical strategies that will bring you into the new year with clarity, purpose, and equilibrium.
Welcome warm, heavy-fat foods.
Denying your desire to partake in the festivities by depriving yourself of your favorite foods, is how you end up sneaking pecan pie straight out of the fridge in the middle of the night. There’s a reason we eat these foods at this time of year—just embrace it. Have fun.
If you lean towards a Vata imbalance—tending to be more anxious, have mental clutter, dry skin, arthritis, nerve or autoimmune challenges—these foods will help ground you and calm the nervous system.
Eat food that favors hot, spicy, sour, and sweet tastes.
In general, try to avoid cold, astringent, and salty foods (like pretzels and chips, ice cold beverages and desserts, green bananas, rice cakes, melons, preserved jerkies and hams).
If you lean towards a Kapha (Water and Earth) body type, hot, spicy foods and teas will help increase body heat and fire up your metabolism. For you, movement is crucial to your inner and outer balance. To preserve your energy, eat smaller portions and take lots of walks.
If you are a raw foodist, take your food out of the fridge 12-hours before you eat it, so it can warm up to room temperature before you eat or drink it. You can even place it in a mason jar and warm it in a pot of hot water. The closer to body temp your food is, the less work your digestive system needs to do to metabolize the food.
Practice good digestive hygiene. (That’s a thing, right?)
Heavily cooked meats take three times longer to digest, and require more fluids and enzymes. Try to eat meats on the rarer side.
Experiment with food combining. There are a few different theories on this, but I prefer waiting 45 minutes between eating proteins, starches, and salads. So, after a plate of turkey and gravy (fat goes with everything, btw), wait 45 minutes before you dig into the potatoes. Eat fruits alone. Or, eat dessert only. Pick a dessert that has more fruit and fat and less sugar.
Don’t drink tons of water with your meal. This slows down your digestion.
Develop healthy potluck habits.
Bring food that you enjoy, and that will nourish you. Find a quiet, calm seat near the people you enjoy, and eat slowly. Remember your food-combining tips.
If you drink alcohol, go for something live and local like a hard cider, mead, or organic wine. Or try kombucha as a non-alcoholic alternative. Ginger tea is always a great digestive drink. Chamomile is calming. Non-alcoholic eggnog is yummy and nourishing.
Our favorite wintertime drink is warm raw milk with butter, cloves, cinnamon and a drop of raw honey.
Say no more often.
Pass on your friend’s annual screening of Elf. Tell your mom you can’t be there ‘til two. Take a vacation to somewhere you love.
You don’t need to attend every event and visit every relative. You don’t have to eat a bite of everything to prove you love your family. Bring balance to your heart by putting yourself first and allowing yourself to receive. Take a nap and let someone else do the dishes for a change.
Other balancing activities (for the holidays and beyond)
- Hot baths (add ½ cup milk)
- Warm sesame oil massages
- Sleeping in
- Turning off electronics before dinner / using candlelight at night
- Lots of layers and staying out of the wind
- Calming music
- Pet snuggles by the fireplace
- Meditation, yin or restorative yoga
One more thing—try not to overestimate your bandwidth. Err on the side of under-planning if you can (you’ll still have a busy holiday season, I promise!). If family visits are stressful for you, set up an escape plan in advance.
In the midst of a difficult conversation (think politics and/or religion), use our go-to response: “Oh, that’s a very interesting perspective. I can see how you might think that way.”
Breathe in Spirit, slow down, and celebrate!
Enjoy this season while you can, and take care of yourself in this time of transition.
For the next several weeks, we invite you to focus on recharging your battery, and to fill your cup with fun, connection, and warmth.
The happiest of holidays to you,
Avyanna & Phoenix