Take A Breath And Manage Holiday Stress
We live in stressful times, especially during the holiday season. We have a laundry list of demands on us from family, friends, and co-workers, and there’s no short supply of angry store clerks and drivers on the freeways. Whether you’re surrounded by chaos or isolated and lonely – another holiday challenge – life can be painful. Wouldn’t it be great to have some support?
No matter your situation, the one thing you can depend on is your breath to help you feel better during the holidays and all year around. For as long as you’re alive, your breath is always there for you. It’s the soothing bridge between your body and your mind and is the doorway to your divine self. When you can change your breath, you can change your attitude and emotions. Anytime you need to calm down and refocus, you can use mindful breathing to rescue you.
The conscious awareness of your breath influences your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual states. Mindful, intentional breathing slows your heart rate and brings you back to the present moment, which is where life is always taking place.
Practicing how you inhale and exhale balances the state of your nervous system. It calms the sympathetic nervous system – the “fight or flight” reaction that releases adrenaline and cortisol into your body – and it activates the natural flow of energy and your parasympathetic nervous system to help you feel calmer, happier, and more energized.
Here’s a laundry list you’re going to like. A regular practice of mindful breathing can help you:
– Achieve a greater sense of well-being
– Improve overall health
– Decrease stress and calm your nervous system
– Banish brain fog, improve focus and memory, and promote mental clarity
– Nurture creativity and innovation
– Build stamina
– Boost your lifeforce energy
– Elevate your mood and let go of negativity
– Relieve depression, anxiety, and PTSD
– Improve your sleep
– Promote mindfulness
– Have a richer spiritual life
– Connect with your authentic self
– Connect your mind and body
– Build contentment, happiness, and inner peace
– Be more patient and compassionate toward yourself and others
– Deal more easily with illness and discomfort
– Recover from illness more quickly
– Detoxify your organs
– Interact more easily with others
– Cultivate emotional balance and stability
– Enhance coping skills
– Reduce or eliminate substance abuse
– Slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure
– Build capillaries to deliver more oxygen to your organs
– Reduce stress hormones and inflammation
– Better manage weight loss
– Improve digestion
– Boost your immune system
– Find more inspiration in daily tasks
– Improve job performance
– Cultivate a longer life
So, how do you get started? Here are some simple conscious breathing exercises you can do either sitting or lying down to help you feel better.
3 Mindful Breaths
The key here is simply to be aware of your breath as you take a slow, belly breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your nose three times. If you’d like, you can close your eyes. After you finish, rest in silence breathing normally for a few seconds. This quick practice will calm the “fight or flight” response and help you feel more peaceful.
You can use this technique anytime and anywhere to calm yourself down, even in public. No one will know you’re doing it. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, breathe out through your nose for a count of 4, and hold on empty for a count of 4. Repeat this a few times until you feel yourself calming down.
Ujjayi is Sanskrit for victorious, and it’ll make you feel like a winner. It’s a restricted breath, sometimes called Ocean Breath, because the breathing sounds like the waves of the ocean. You can practice Ujjayi any time of day, but it’s especially nice at bedtime, because it will help you go to sleep. Begin by restricting the air in your throat as you breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. It will sound like a soft snore. Hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale with restricted breath for a count of 6, and hold on empty for a count of 2. Do 8 rounds of Ujjayi or as many as it takes to go to sleep. You may fall asleep before you finish your rounds!
Diana Osberg is a certified sound therapy facilitator, soundbath practitioner, and Yin and Restorative yoga teacher and is trained in mindful breathing techniques. She facilitates soundbath events, workshops, and retreats under the name Inner Story Retreats to help people recognize and release self-limiting stories, connect to their inner wisdom, and develop tools to deal with whatever life throws at them.
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