It’s the most grumbleful time of the year

For the most part my transition into my thirties was pretty smooth; no real shocking changes other than people all of a sudden assuming I had an issue with my age. The only thing I’ve found a little bit surprising was the emergence of holiday and seasonal stress. Up until a couple of years ago, Thanksgiving through New Years Eve was my favorite time of year. I guess the difference is the addition of new stressors to the November/December milieu: 2,000+ miles to travel to see family, 1 hour less daylight than I was used to getting in the Chicago winter (man that makes a difference!), taking over for grandma and mom to become the holiday cook, going home to an aging parent, and so on. This year I’ve been exploring different ways to decompress and have found a few things that work for me.

Meditation: For years I’ve had friends and family tell me that they benefited greatly from meditation. I remained skeptical that this could work for me because I rarely seem to be able to carve time out for other healthy pursuits such as the gym, or sleep. Thankfully for people like me, there are books that break down meditation misconceptions to show us that it can be added to a hectic schedule, and practices can even be included in your day-to-day activities. If you’re looking for a good guide that isn’t tied to any one spiritual practice and doesn’t require much of a time commitment, I recommend Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield.

Stretching: It’s no secret that tension can be hard on the body. Whether you’re gritting your teeth through outlet mall traffic or trying in vain to ignore bad holiday muzak in the QFC, getting all uptight about it begins to take its toll. Taking some time to stretch out helps to improve your mood immensely. Relax your Neck, Liberate your Shoulders by Eric Franklin provides some really useful stretches, exercises, and tips for body/posture awareness that are targeted to alleviate the soreness caused by tension. This book is also great for folks working desk jobs that involve a lot of typing and phone usage.

Pamper Yourself: Ready or not, it’s December, so there’s no avoiding the holidays. You might as well treat yourself to the things that make you calm and happy. I like to go the warm tea, hot bath, good night’s sleep route. I found some really useful recipes for teas, soaks, and calming essential oils in Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: a Beginner’s Guide. My favorite recipe so far has been for the Calming Herbal Bath. Also of interest for this time of year are teas to help with cold, flu, and bronchial problems; if you check back with me in February I’m pretty sure I’ll be using those.

Aside from the recommended reading, I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from the odd sunny days we’ve been having. Making an effort to get outside for a lunch read has been worth it, even with the slightly chilly temperatures. Come grab a good book to escape with, and I’ll see you on the other side in 2014.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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