Find Your In-Breath | Omega

As women, we can add more renewal to our holiday season with less action and a few more in-breaths.

Holiday stress seems about as traditional these days as cookie exchanges and tree trimming. Women in particular tend to have full plates all year, but especially during this end-of-year rush.

At Omega's 2013 Women & Power Conference, Joan Halifax Roshi discussed the duality of our lives and the importance of down time, "You could say that every bird has two wings: one of those wings is the wing of contemplation, and the other wing is the wing of action. Both of those wings make it possible for us to move, fly, and be in the world."

For many women, we live in a world of action—whether it’s at work, at home, or even with friends. But if we think of the image of the bird, we can’t fly with just one wing. Most of us need to make time for more mindfulness or contemplation.

Joan explained, "I deeply value the time in my day when I meditate, and when I take a backward step and go into deep solitude at my hermitage in the mountains. These are times of renewal for me, where I have a chance to integrate the social and environmental transformation work that I do in the outer world. If I was just driving straight on as a social activist, without ever taking an inhale, I don't think I would still be alive. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and too often we feel like we have to exhale all the time. The inhale is absolutely essential—and then you can exhale."

Women & Power Conference presenter Brené Brown agreed. She declared herself a notorious breath holder.

In her research, Brené has found that we can’t give to people what we don’t already have, so many women end up feeling resentful even when they are trying to give. 

“I can’t give love and kindness to my kids or to the world or the earth if I can’t give love and kindness to myself,” she said.

Instead of getting swept up in the holiday madness, make an effort to give to yourself. Try these four ways to take more in-breaths. You might be surprised to see how you can create space to truly enjoy this time of year. 

1. Keep Up Your Routines

It’s so easy to get off track during the holiday season. One way to be sure you take care of yourself is to double your efforts. Schedule one extra workout a week. Find a “turkey trot or a New Year’s Eve 5K and make it a goal to train for a few weeks beforehand. Don’t skimp out on your therapy sessions, 12-Step meetings, or yoga classes. In fact, book an extra holiday session or two, if you can.

2. Schedule Cozy Time

Schedule some slow quiet space in your holiday schedule. Take an afternoon to brew some hot chocolate, put on your favorite pair of fuzzy socks, and read a book. Take some time to organize the year’s photos while you listen to jazz. Make a bowl of popcorn and watch an old black-and-white movie with your partner or a good friend.

3. Pamper Yourself

Tell everyone that all you want for the holidays is a spa day or spa-inspired gifts. Take an afternoon off and get a massage. If you can’t afford a spa treatment, slice some cucumbers and place them on your eyes for a few minutes at home. Then, light some candles and take a bubble bath.

4. Serve Someone

In this season of giving, you might find your deepest joy comes from helping someone else. Being of service does not mean you have to donate large sums of money or time. Maybe you’re at a party and can see the host is overwhelmed. Offer to stay a little late and help clean up. Or, invite someone who is far from their family to your house for a holiday celebration.  

© Omega Institute for Holisitic Studies