Since 2020 has been a year of tremendous anxiety for many, culminating in an election season that has amplified our stress and frustration, we wanted to share “Top 10 Daily Tips to De-Stress & Meditate” from wellness experts from New York State’s Ulster County to help navigate the holiday season and colder months ahead, as well as anticipating the New Year.
Known for its natural surroundings and the outdoors, as well as its residents’ longstanding commitment to holistic health and wellness, Ulster County features many yoga studios, meditation centers, hiking trails, and award-winning spas available throughout the region including the Emerson Resort & Spa in the Catskills, Mohonk Mountain House Spa, surrounded by 40,000 acres of pristine forest, among others.
Located 90 minutes north of NYC, Ulster County sits in the heart of the Hudson River Valley with the Hudson River on its eastern edge, the storied Catskill Mountains on its western flank, and ¼ million acres of protected forests, fields, and waterways between them for recreational use. Rich in history as a sixteenth-century Dutch trading post and New York’s first state capital, the County features celebrated towns and growing cities including Kingston, Woodstock, New Paltz, Phoenicia, Saugerties, and many others.
- Build a Simple Schedule – “We are oftentimes so busy, especially when trying to balance, working from home, teaching from home and/or being a caretaker or parent from home. Life can be overwhelming very quickly. However, start by identifying when you can create more space and build it into an already existing part of your routine so that you are better able to commit to it. For example, if the afternoon is better, end lunch 5 minutes early for a midday stretch, or if bedtime works best, give yourself a few minutes of meditation right after you’ve brushed your teeth. It can also be as simple as three minutes of conscious breathing and should be something that’s attainable so that you’re more likely to be able to fit it in. Start small.” – Theresa Lyn Widmann.
- Create a Wake-Up Routine – “Be dedicated and set a time every morning to take a few moments to deepen your breath when you wake up and create a personal, positive intention for your day. Regulate your breathing and keep it well-paced, gently turning your affirmation over in your mind. Lift your sternum and set your eyes to the sky, then do a slow exhale. Remind yourself that deep, mindful breathing and focused-thought exercise is a resource that you can turn to at any point of the day especially when you’re feeling that chaos or freneticism.” – Amy Reed.
- Get Outside & Get Some Vitamin D – “We’re lucky in Ulster County to have the outdoors and nature’s most gorgeous resources accessible in our backyard. However, even for those who are living in urban locations, we can all get outside. Take advantage of the sunlight during the daytime – even if it’s for a 30-minute walk before the winter sun sets. We are connected to our phones and laptops now more than ever since working from home, so it’s important to be exposed to the outdoors and get some sun. Take a moment to do some conscious breathing when you are outside and appreciate where you live.” – Theresa Lyn Widmann.
- Be Conscious of Your Meals – “We all deal with stress in different ways, especially when it comes to nutrition. Stress can also greatly alter our personal eating habits. I’ve found that creating a simple game plan can help such as preparing a healthy meal and simple snack option in advance, striving for balanced food groups and proportions and setting aside scheduled downtime to dig in helps us feel more attuned to our nutritional needs.” – Amy Reed.
- Do Things That Bring You Joy – “In 2020, work may have changed, and income may have changed. So, there is a need now more than ever to find joy and creativity from within. This can be an art project, listening to music, dancing, walking around the neighborhood, going for a run, cooking, finally diving into your reading list, and much more. Meditation or sitting still may not always align with everyone. Don’t force it. Do what brings you joy.” – Theresa Lyn Widmann.
- Say Hello To Your Neighbors (Even from Six-Feet Away) – “Ulster County is rooted in community. Even with winter coming up and we may think of the season as an isolating period, it’s important to be more mindful of your community outreach. Go for a short walk. Say hello to your neighbors – even when six-feet apart. I have a four-year-old daughter and we often take our sidewalk chalk and write ‘hello’ notes to our neighbors around town. Simple offerings of friendship and solidarity are key elements of yoga and fostering relationships helps each of us feel connected to one another.” – Amy Reed.
- Simple Shoulder Shrugs or Spinal Flexes – “You’d be amazed by what a little movement can do. Try shoulder shrugs midafternoon, whether sitting or standing, inhale lifting and squeezing your shoulders up towards your ears, and then on the exhale just let them drop, sloughing off any of that stress or tension that has accumulated there. Spinal flexes are also extremely helpful and manage the energy flow throughout the body. Anyone can do it. Sitting with your hands on your thighs, inhale pushing your chest forward, shoulders back, then exhale flexing in the opposite direction. It’s an easy practice that can be done throughout the day and releases tension from the body. Set a timer and repeat for three minutes.” – Theresa Lyn Widmann.
- Reduce Your Screen Time – “It may sound hard but put down your screen when you can. At the close of the day, move away from the hyperstimulation. Find your breath and try a simple and grounding yoga pose such as a child pose or slow, seated stretches that will help to quiet the mind and soothe the body. These kinds of mindful exercises can calmly wrap and peacefully close your workday.” – Amy Reed.
- Brave for that Cold Rinse – “After your warm daily shower, try for a COLD rinse at the end while simultaneously doing deep breathing. The breathing helps to keep the energy and heat of your body flowing, allowing you to build up a tolerance for the cold water. Start with whatever level of cold and for however long you can handle. Notice that over time, it gets easier and you may just look forward to it. Not only does taking a cold rinse to get the internal heat of your body going, teaching your body to create its own heat, but it’s also good for your immune system and mental health. If you do this regularly, you’ll find it helps your body build more resilience to brave the colder climate and life’s ups and downs.” – Theresa Lyn Widmann.
- Looking Ahead to the Holidays and 2021 – “When we move into the holidays and look into the New Year, it’s helpful to acknowledge the fact that this season will be different but that it’s OK. Find ways to mentally, spiritually, and physically stay healthy with the changing tides. Make time to virtually connect with your family, friends, and loved ones. You can even share your health tips with them and talk about how you’ve been able to change and adapt during this time. Inspire others to do the same.”
Amy Reed, Certified Yoga Instructor, Wellness Coach, and Teacher at The Yoga House in Kingston, who is a long-time resident of Ulster County, a member of the LBGTQ+ community, and mother of a four-year-old daughter. In addition, Theresa Lyn Widmann, Founder of Anahata Yoga and Healing Arts in Kingston, is a KRI Certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher and a Certified Gong Master who shared her expert tips below. As a former Manhattan resident with a previous career in sales and the law, Theresa is now also the host of “I Want What She Has” podcast and weekly live radio show on Radio Kingston.