Beating the Winter Blues
We met with Olivia Miller of OHM Works right before Christmas to discuss the stress that the holidays and the impending first few months of the year bring. This holiday season has been unlike any other so many of us have experienced. I’ve found myself both looking forward to and dreading these weeks in equal amounts. For most, we have found ourselves out of balance this past year, with minds that won’t shut off. First thing in the morning, we wake up and check emails or messages if working from home - not to mention the amount of time it takes to catch up on the news of this unfamiliar, historic time we’re living in. These, along with virtual schooling for most of our children can wreak havoc on the work/life balance for our families.
With so much already piled on our plates, the stress of the holiday season behind us (is it really), how can we expect to cope with the pressures of the new year and the next few months with shorter and darker days? Olivia was able to guide us through some reminders and exercises we can utilize to help us gain control over what’s been a universally uncontrollable year.
Olivia’s first tip was decidedly aesthetic as she jingled clusters of tiny red and green bells hanging from her ears: get festive! Holiday decorations, accessories, lights etc. can really have an affect on our holiday spirit. Even though the holidays are over, maybe keep those decorations up a little longer. Be joyful as this new year can be something worth getting super excited about!
But we know that putting away the tree can be a chore within itself, and just succeeding in the cycle of taking it down - at whatever time feels right for you (no judgement on Easter trees here) doesn’t cure anyone of their worries. Any of Olivia’s insights can be embraced year-round, whenever you may need them! In these moments when you feel overwhelmed and your mind is racing, Olivia walked us through a couple of meditations:
Breath of Balance - for those of us in need of a gentle reminder
Paying attention to your breathing, start by taking deep, slow breaths. Be conscious of gratitude for these breaths - being grateful here makes it impossible to be unhappy.
With these breaths, imagine an orange energy glow radiating from your navel - here is our 3rd chakra - our solar plexus chakra, named the manipura chakra. This happy orange glow allows for the free flow of emotions like creativity or joy, allowing us to quell shadow emotions like anxiety or unease.
Inhale with the gentle thought “I am alive” as we are bringing in healing energy with each breath
On your exhale, give focus to the thought “I am joyful.” Repeat.
Using our diaphragm, here we are bringing in healing energy & exhaling toxic feelings of negativity, worry etc.
Lightening the Shoulders - for the anyone who holds their stress is in their shoulders
Shoulders - bring up to ears, then relax them with a “ahhh,” sound; a heavy breath out.
Visialize worries and stresses being sloughed off with the movement
Shoulder circles - whatever rhythm feels comfortable for you.
Paying attention to sensation and movement - try going in both directions
Come back to center and notice where your shoulders are - maybe a bit lower than when you started?
Getting Grounded - for the Warriors bound to their desk
Sitting most of the day even during Work From Home can be trying on the body. With this meditation, we are allowed some standing exercise.
Start in Tadasana - mountain pose. Stand with feet hip distance apart; shoulders down, chin parallel to the floor. Take care that your pelvis is neutral with knees slightly bent.
In Tadasana, we are rooted to the earth - grounded via muladhara the root chakra at the base of the spine.
Take your hands out in front of you with palms down; bend knees a couple of inches and take an inhale.
Exhale and stand back up straight - visualize roots growing with each repetition of the movement - becoming connected and grounded with the earth.
Bring your feet a bit wider - turning from one side to the other, letting arms swing out to the sides as if you’re a kid playing with your too-long coat sleeves.
Lift heels alternately if you’d like, but not necessary.
Raise arms alternatively to give yourself a gentle pat on the back - youea rned it!
Transitioning back into mountain pose, focus on sensations - maybe you feel a little heavier in a stable, secure way? More at home in your body/on the earth?
Throughout the breathwork that Olivia has taught us, there is a familiar flow of breath, the intentional inhale/exhale rhythm, that at its simplest can also be used as a tool to help us find a moment of gratitude and peace, even in the moments where we find ourselves too busy for a more involved exercise.
Maitri, Olivia explained to us, is the unconditional friendliness towards one’s own experience. A great concept, maitri knows no judgement or expectations; but allows us to act as our own gentle cheerleader, finding fullfillment, progress and grace in the everyday. A little way to embrace maitri throughout this decidedly uneasy winter:
Inhale with the single thought, “I am alive” - imagine bringing in healing energy with your breath. At our solar plexus we have the manipura chakra, anchored in our emotions. Imagine this chakra at your belly glowing a warm, joyful orange color, meditating for just a moment on feelings of happiness, content, and inner peace.
On the exhale, allow yourself the thought, “I am joyful.”
A meditation on maitri is one that can be done over those first few sips of coffee in the morning, or after the kids are in bed at the end of the day. Or, even in the car (you don’t have to close your eyes for it!)
Getting through the year 2020 and facing what may lie ahead in this new year is a feat that should certainly be awarded and celebrated! As we embark on this journey together as a community, please remember to care for yourselves and one another. If you’d like to learn more about Olivia and her wealth of knowledge surrounding meditation, yoga and breathwork, be sure to pop over to OHMWorks.
We hope you have a very fulfilling, joyous, and amazing New Year! Mariah, Olivia, Deanna