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7 Tools to Ease Anxiety at Family Gatherings

HealPractice
Elephant in restaurant knocking over chairs and dishes while a woman dining looks on

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These tools will help you keep your cool through the chaos of the holidays.

The holidays can be exciting times, full of celebration, love, and joy. But they can also bring stress and anxiety to the surface—even if you love spending time with your family, the holidays can be tense. 

If you are stressed for a prolonged period, it can create inflammation in your body. Stress can even plant the seeds for chronic illness. The good news is that there are several simple tools that can help you escape stress in the moment. 

Think of the practices listed below as a box of tools. As soon as you begin to feel stress or anxiety creep up on you during the holiday season, take one out and put it to use. The more you use these tools, the more automated stress-relief can become:

  1. Meditate. Meditating has many long-term benefits, including stress release and decreased reactivity. You don’t have to fly to the end of the earth to meditate with a guru for it to be an effective practice. Even meditating for just a minute a day delivers benefits. I often have clients do a 4-4-4 breathing method. Here’s how to do it: Breathe in deeply through your nose, to the bottom of your stomach for four counts. Hold the breath and visualize light filling up your entire body for four counts. Finally, exhale deeply through your mouth for four counts. Repeat at least three times and for up to five minutes. 
  2. Take a walk. Take breaks from the chaos of family celebrations by walking around the block. Breathe deeply and notice the sounds and smells around you, the crunch of the leaves or fresh snow, the smell of the crisp winter air. Notice how your body feels and what emotions might have been stirred up during the festivities. No need to judge them, just be aware. After even a short mindful walk, you can walk back in and resume the festivities from a calmer, more mindful place. 
  3. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. If things get intense—even intensely fun—take a few moments at least every couple hours to breathe deeply. Duck into the bathroom close your eyes and get back to your 4-4-4 breath. 
  4. Eat grounding foods. Holiday celebrations are often full of expansive foods that heighten your energy. Sugar and alcohol are okay to consume occasionally in mindful moderation, but be sure to balance out the holiday goodies with grounding foods. Enjoy a bowl full of grounding foods like root vegetables, miso soup, nuts, or avocado before heading into your holiday celebration to keep your energy and appetite in balance.
  5. Balance your third chakra. Your third chakra rules your personal power. Supporting, clearing, and keeping this chakra aligned can help you stay centered even when the environment around you is shifting into chaos. You can work to balance your third chakra through energy healing, meditation, sound healing, and even eating yellow foods! 
  6. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep tends to amplify emotions and feelings of stress and anxiety. I know this can be tough with all of the additional social events, but really make a thoughtful effort to sleep for seven to eight hours a night during the holiday season. 
  7. Find a grounding practice. Find a practice that you can turn to when emotions run high. This could be the 4-4-4 breathing technique mentioned; it could be standing firmly on your feet and visualizing that you are sending the disruptive energy down to the ground into the core of the earth or to your stomach; or it could be politely removing yourself from the room, sitting with your own energy for a few minutes alone, visualizing a beautiful protective white light enveloping your body.

Start to play with some of these techniques now before the holidays begin. Not every practice will work for everyone and that’s okay. Discovering the tools that are effective for decreasing triggers for stress and anxiety now will let you know which to turn to when you need it most during the holidays. 

For help with getting deeper sleep during the holiday season, try this guided meditation and a recipe for Moon Milk.


Serena Poon is a chef, nutritionist and reiki master. Serena’s Culinary Alchemy™ is the practice of combining intuitive energetic techniques with guidance and education on functional & spiritual nutrition, integrating how food affects our bodies on a physiological level, as well as how it affects the energetic body. Serena’s goal is to optimize and heal the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of her clients.  Serena has a degree from UC Berkeley and Serena is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu’s most intense and comprehensive programming - Grand Diplome. Find her at Serenaloves.com


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