Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Breathe Through Your Holiday Stress

During the holidays many people experience stressful situations as they go about all of their activities -- things like dealing with difficult family members, missing loved ones who are gone and trying to accomplish everything on the "to do" list -- just to name a few.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / dolgachov
Today I would like to give you a tool for handling this stress holistically. It's a simple tool that you can take with you wherever you go -- it's called belly breathing, or abdominal breathing.

During times of emotional stress, people tend to unconsciously hold their breath. This is harmful, because it can lead to a host of problems including high blood pressure, muscle pain and stuck emotions.

The good news is that we can learn to breathe better and reduce the harmful effects on our body, mind and spirit.

Here is a simple technique from the AMSA:
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. 
  • Take a slow deep breath in through your nose, then hold it for a count of 7. As you breathe in, the hand on your abdomen should rise higher than the one on your chest. 
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. 
  • Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breath cycles.
Once you feel comfortable with this technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (on the inhale) and stress or anger (on the exhale). The idea is to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with the inhalation and release the feeling you don't want with the exhalation.

Do this exercise twice a day or whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts. You should notice it brings you to a more peaceful place. Merry Christmas!

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