Four seconds breathe in, four seconds breathe out. Do you remember when the holiday season wasn’t stressful? Yeah, we don’t either. Maybe as kids, we found the days counting down to Christmas to be exciting, fun and magical. The speculation of what Santa was going to bring, or for the older kids “What we were going to get for Christmas” filled our minds and schoolyard conversations. That was a wonderful time, but it was long ago.
The holiday season for us, adults, is filled with an attempt to balance the holidays with what we do throughout the rest of the year: work, bills, chores, family obligations and did we mention work? As kids, we got holidays off. What’s more is that school around the holidays was filled with snow days, late starts, and just a general “slowing down” as both teachers and students had a hard time keeping a concentrated grasp on learning with all this holiday fun everywhere. As adults, we get no snow days, and the work towards the end of the calendar year seems to get more, not less intense.
“Why can’t Christmas be some other time of year, like June or August?” we find ourselves muttering as we try to balance everything leading up to the new year.
How do you reduce stress? Many ways, but some of the easiest and most accessible ones are deep breathing, and breathing exercises.
Most of us do not breathe correctly. For example, some time ago, one of our co-workers broke two ribs while playing sports. He got in a habit of taking short, shallow breaths while the injury was healing because it hurt to take deep breaths. As a result, even after the ribs healed, he was so used to breathing shallow, his body changed the way he breathes, and to this day continues this breathing pattern.
Being outside, in the cold, or being around objectionable odors are all factors that could lead us to instinctively want to take shorter, shallower breaths. Dry air from indoor heating also dries us out, makes us not want to breathe as deep. Shallow breathing activates our stress hormones; our “fight or flight” response. Prolonged states of “fight or flight” cause us to become perpetually stressed, ruins our mood and skyrockets our blood pressure and resting heart rate.
Whether you are at work, at home, or running errands, take some time to breathe deep, just make sure the air you are breathing is not too cold, because filling your lungs with frigid air could lead to a whole lot of other issues. Take 4 seconds to breathe in, making sure that every nook and cranny of your lungs is filled with air, and take 4 more seconds to breathe out, clearing your lungs out as much as you can. Use your diaphragm/breathe with your chest instead of your stomach — it will ensure a fuller, deeper breath.
Did you start breathing deep while reading this? If you did, you should be feeling less stressed by now. Happy Holidays!