Stressed about the upcoming holidays? You're not alone.
The American Psychological Association has found that 44 per cent of women and 31 per cent of men say they are more stressed during the Christmas holiday season than any other time of year.
All that cooking, hosting, travelling and family time can be fun, but it's another layer of things to do on top of your already busy schedule. And if your finances are tight, you may be wondering (and worrying) how you will afford it all.
If you feel your mind going a million miles a minute, consider turning to your computer or smartphone to relax. It may sound counter-intuitive, but there are a lot of great apps, websites and podcasts out there that can help you de-stress, even if all you have is two minutes. Here are some of our favourite ways to unwind.
1. Skip the holiday music in the car, listen to a dharma talk podcast instead: Christmas music is fun, but to help you keep the holidays in perspective, try listening to a free "dharma talk" during your commute to work. A dharma talk is when a Buddhist teacher speaks on a certain topic, such as "Compassion," or "Loving Kindness," or "Right Speech." You'll find hundreds of options at AudioDharma.org, which is an archive of free talks.
2. Take an online yoga class: During the busy holiday season you may not have time to commute to a yoga class, so consider streaming one online instead. YogaVibes.com has great teachers and dozens of classes to choose from. First-time customers can stream as many classes as they like for free for 15 days. After that you have to pay $US20 for a monthly pass or $US200 to access the site's videos for a year. If you're short on time, consider Annie Carpenter's "Chill-Out Sequence". It's just 16 minutes, and ends with a very relaxing body scan.
3. Download a guided meditation: When you are running around like a crazy person, even just five minutes of sitting still and paying attention to your breath can help you to calm down. You'll find free, short mindfulness meditations on UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre website. Insight LA also offers free Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction meditations on its website.
4. Do nothing for two minutes: If you are looking for even less of a time commitment, check out donothingfor2minutes.com. You'll find a picture of the ocean at sunset, the sounds of waves, and a timer that will count down two minutes. If you touch your mouse or keyboard while the timer is going, the words "fail" will appear on the screen and the timer will reset. One note of warning: Close your email before you begin. When I tried this, the timer kept resetting every time I got a new email alert. Also, it may feel like the longest two minutes of your life.
5. Ring the bell: If you have your own meditation practice, consider downloading the Insight Timer app from Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. It won't change your life, but it does let you choose from nine bell sounds to signal the start of your meditation, and when to wind it down. It's hardly necessary, but for $1.99, it's fun. And meditating is always easier when you let someone else, or something else, mind the time.
Los Angeles Times