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Your go-to guide for combating stress this holiday season!

Written by Megan Stancill, DPT. Physical Therapist, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Registered Yoga Teacher


Getting together with friends and family during the holiday season can be a joyful and memorable tradition… but with that joy, often comes stress – especially when travel, family and a 30lb turkey are thrown into the mix. Here are some tips and tricks to help you cope with the common holiday-related triggers.


When you think about packing for your trip, the TSA lines at the airport, the crowds – what happens to your breath?  Are your shoulders creeping up around your ears? Are you anticipating the stress you will encounter? Notice the effect that this stress has on your body’s ability to take deep satisfying breaths.  You can use the following to exercise to return to a relaxed satisfying breath:

Breathing Break – Get comfortable in a chair of your choice.  Feel your feet grounded on the floor and your pelvis supported by the chair.  Place your hands on your abdomen and imagine a ball or sphere. It can be any size or color you like.  Imagine as you inhale that the ball inflates in all directions. As you exhale, the ball deflates. Place this sphere in the center of your body.  Feel the motion of the sphere and your belly as you breathe. As you inhale, the belly gently rises. As you exhale, the belly gently falls. Let the movement be slow, relaxed and luxurious.  Take 5 deep breaths using this visualization and then relax.


Sitting for hours at a time in a cramped seat on a train or car can lead to tight muscles and poor posture.  But how do we stretch when we don’t have a lot of space? You can use the following chair yoga flow to help you move your spine when you don’t have a lot of room to fidget.

Chair Flow – Scoot to the edge of your seat so that your back is unsupported.  Place your hands on your knees and begin to rock your pelvis forward and back, rolling on the two sitting bones like the curved bottom of a rocking chair.  Inhale as you rock forward and exhale as you rock back. If you have room to move your arms you can reach them up towards the sky as you rock your pelvis forward and lower them in front of you as if holding a big beach ball as you rock back.  The additional arm movements increase the spinal motion bringing the rocking into your mid back. Repeat as needed, try to practice the chair flow once an hour if sitting for many hours with no break.


Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pies – the list of holiday foods is abundant and sometimes staggering.  In anticipation of the work of digestion we can massage our bellies from the outside with twists and gentle compression that relax the abdominal muscles.

Floor Flow – Lie on your back with your knees bent and drawn in to your chest.  Place a hand on each knee. As you inhale, straighten your arms and push your knees away.  As you exhale, bend your arms and draw your knees in towards your body. Repeat 10 times feeling the gentle compression on your abdomen from the weight of your thighs as you exhale.  Rest. Next, open your arms out to the sides of your body and slowly rock your bent legs side to side as you breathe. Exhale as your legs drop to one side and stay in the reclining twist.  Inhale your legs up and then drop them over to the other side and repeat the twist. Finish with your legs back in the center, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Rest and breathe.


Does your family collapse onto the couch after a big meal in a food coma?  Why not start a new family tradition by introducing an active group activity that will help everyone digest, rest and savor the time together.  A relaxed stroll is a perfect post-feast activity. Walking meditation makes it even more special.

Walking Meditation – Dress warmly and comfortably.  Head outside. Take several deep breaths and reflect upon a word that is meaningful to you.  Examples include: “love, happy, peace, joy and grateful.” Select one. As you walk, repeat your word to yourself with every foot fall.  Enjoy the scenery and the feeling of moving your body. With every step and every breath your word repeats in your mind until it becomes the background music to your walk.  

Interested in learning more about relaxation techniques, click on to book an appointment today.