Karen Ranzi’s 10 tips to bring relaxation, calm and health into your family during the holiday season.
Holidays, festive occasions and celebrations can be tricky times. We’re often spending much more time with our families than we’re used to, which can lead to cabin fever, disagreements and just plain outright irritation. But we don’t want to fight and fall out with our families (or friends for that matter). After all, it’s a time to enjoy and share precious time with our loved ones. Sometimes, it’s simply that expectation that we will enjoy ourselves that causes the tiffs and moods. So how can we prepare for a joyous, calm and content holiday season?
1. Exercise daily
Moving your body burns up stress hormones, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed. Exercise gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps us let go of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Exercise creates momentum for additional healthy choices. In his book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John J. Ratey, MD reports the important connection between aerobic exercise and lifting mood, beating stress, fighting memory loss, sharpening intellect and functioning at one’s best by elevating the heart rate and breaking a sweat. The book reveals how aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.
Yoga is an excellent means of toning, stretching and relaxation. The internal organs are strengthened and toned by the additional flow of blood brought to them by the various yogic postures. The raw food lifestyle and yoga compliment each other - both enhance energy and rejuvenation and offer composure to the mind and serenity to the spirit.
2. Don’t be an island
Seek support in your life by reaching out to others. Get the help you need, especially at holiday time when daily life can be more stressful.
3. Eat well
Include an abundance of nutrient-dense raw vegan foods to energise and keep spirits up. Eating a lot of cooked starches during the holidays used to make me feel weak and lethargic afterward, even to the point of experiencing difficulty getting up off the chair. As a longtime raw vegan, I now have energy following my meals, even on holidays! Cooked foods will wear out the adrenals, which get a good rest on raw food.
Eating all or mostly greens, ripe fruits and vegetables and smaller amounts of nuts and seeds is the simplest way to maintain optimal health and weight, particularly during the holidays. Live foods don’t contain the toxic chemicals created by high cooking temperatures, and their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre remain whole. Fresh natural food keeps its delicious flavour and vibrant colours, perfect to decorate the holiday table.
For my close to 20 years of raw vegan living, holidays have been a time of presenting beautifully displayed and creative raw food dishes, which might include green juice/lemon/ginger cocktail, festive fresh fruit plates, banana-coconut nog, lightly dehydrated pesto-stuffed zucchini, peppers and mushrooms for appetisers, and delicious main courses. One year there might be a main course consisting of garden patties, seasonally colourful seed-vegetable-beet pâté, brilliant salads with choices of tasty dressings, and mashed ‘cauliflower’ potatoes with pecan gravy. There will always be delicious raw pies, cakes and cookies. One of my favorites is my 10-minute simple raw vegan blueberry pie with no crust.
4. Sweet dreams
Get adequate sleep to feel more relaxed and patient. When overwhelmed with chores and shopping to do, this is most important. Research links lack of sleep to health problems like obesity, diabetes, the common cold and even cancer. During sleep, nerve energy is recharged. The nervous system depends on this energy to function properly. There should be no eating for at least three to four hours prior to going to sleep for the night to avoid digestion during sleep. Deep, sound sleep is essential to good health and most beneficial, especially during stressful times.
5. Breathe deeply
Inhale slowly, letting your stomach rise for five seconds. Hold, and exhale slowly for five seconds. Practise five times each day for a total of five minutes. Deep breathing can significantly reduce stress levels, providing hormonal balance and improved sleep.
6. Develop acceptance
Accepting whatever you cannot change will provide a peaceful feeling in dealing with the world. Smile and laugh a lot with your children. Regardless of the ups and downs of the time period, there is so much to appreciate, and what better contagious facial expression is there than a smile? What sound is more cheering than laughter?
7. Do as you will be done by
A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation of your life. When you and your loved ones disagree, focus only on the current situation. Do not bring up the past.
Whatever your end-of-year rituals may be, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by to-do lists and forget what’s truly special about the season. The holidays should give you an opportunity to slow down and connect with family and friends as well as with the sacred within us. There is often too much focus on commercial materialism, while forgetting about the essential spiritual significance of the holidays.
To keep focused on the present, start each day with positive thoughts, which will help keep you and your family living in the moment and filled with gratitude. What can you do today to feel more connected to life and to others? Isn’t this the true spirit of the holiday season?
8. Music is the food of love
Pleasing melodies, especially Mozart, have great value for the entire family, a form of meditation that calms as well as uplifts the spirit. Music speaks in a language that children instinctively understand.
Sitting in quiet meditation even for 10 or 15 minutes a day will create a more focused and rested mind. Silence creates an avenue for dealing with all of life’s situations. Daily meditation creates inner calm, enabling one to handle daily stresses better.
10. Have fun!
Make sure the preparations and stress that come along with the holidays don’t affect your family life. The well-being of each individual is a more important focus than the preparations for a beautiful holiday table. If the preparations are easy and fun, then even the youngest child will want to be involved.
Karen Ranzi is an author, lecturer, speech/language therapist and raw food consultant. Her book, Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods, contains further information on this topic. For more information, to order Karen’s book or subscribe to her free monthly newsletter, visit www.superhealthychildren.com
This article is from the Winter 2012 issue of Get Fresh! magazine