Everything I Need to Cope with the Holidays I Learned from Martial Arts

It’s not a stretch to say that everyone needs a little help getting through the holidays. Our culture has made them so frantic and high-pressure that even those who really pare down or even withdraw pay a price. While signs, commercials, and “friends” are encouraging us to buy, buy, buy, celebrities, faith communities, and charities are telling us to give, give, give. It’s enough to make your head spin right off your shoulders.

Relieving holiday stress can be accomplished in many ways, but if you can’t get to the gym to lift away your tension, swim away your anxiety, or spin frustration away, you can always rely on some of your basic martial arts instruction to bring moments of peace wherever they might be needed. Starting at the beginning gives you a sense of grounding, something that’s thoroughly missing in a season of constant movement. So let’s start at the beginning.

If you can begin your day with a little practice, that’s awesome, but sometimes the holiday anxiety creeps up on you and you need to do something to calm yourself in an environment that’s not exactly conducive to grappling. So simply connect with your breath and hold on for dear life. The focused breathing exercises you do prior to practice are an excellent way to root your body and spirit in calm, peace, and control. Be intentional about the breath: think of nothing else. And after five minutes or so, prioritize the moment. If you’re feeling stressed or pressured to do something, allow the center of your breath to help you determine your course of action. A martial artist has prepared and practiced to react to situations of physical challenge, but a very good martial artist is prepared to use his or her skills to handle even the less tangible challenges.

Make time to take it all in. There’s so much more going on than the pressure of the moment. Seek balance. Your training can be a guide, a refuge, and a mental and physical bolster for you during the holiday season.