When we think about the holiday season, we often picture snowy days or evenings by the fire, friends, and family around us to exchange gifts, maybe even a warm cup of cocoa or eggnog in our hands. We picture warm, bright lights, yummy foods, and (hopefully) a little time off from work.
But making those idyllic scenes a reality can really be stressful. In fact, about 38 percent of Americans say they feel more stressed out during the holidays. And no wonder. There’s often too much to do from finding gifts to planning family visits to cooking and cleaning and too little time to do it in. Add on other factors such as financial stress, family discord, and work obligations, and by the time New Years rolls around, many of us are just a pile of raw nerves.
Luckily, there is one important thing you can do during the holidays to reduce your stress and, hopefully, increase your enjoyment. Taking the time to learn how to calm your mind when the stress hits can literally save your life or at least your sanity. Here’s how to do it.
Reconnect with Your Breath
Ok, so we all know how to breathe it’s something we’ve done since the second we were born. But when stress levels go up, we tend to forget to breathe. It’s not a conscious decision, but rather a natural reaction to stress tied to our fight or flight instincts. When we get stressed out, it’s important to take a moment to reconnect to your breath. By that, we mean practicing mindful breathing.
There are numerous techniques to help us breathe more calmly. One that works very well and is easy to do is called “box breathing” or “square breathing”. The purpose is to slow down your breath, which will reduce your heart rate and stress levels.
To do it, it’s a good idea to first get comfortable. This could be a lying down prone position or simply an upright, seated position. Choose whichever is most comfortable to you.
Next, close your eyes and gently exhale as much air as you can from your lungs. Inhale from your nose and count slowly to four, then stop inhaling. Hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds.
Try to maintain focus on your breath, but if any intrusive thoughts come into your mind, observe them, acknowledge them, and then let them move on (some people feel it’s easiest to do this last step on an exhale).
Repeat these patterns for as long as you need to, until you feel more focused and less stressed.
Find What Works for You
Of course, this breathing exercise isn’t the only way to calm your mind. In fact, there are many other breathing exercises that you can try.
You might also want to try yoga, either in your home or in a class. Even 10 minutes of yoga stretching and breathing each day can help bring you a new sense of calm and clarity.
Finally, you may want to consider meditation and mindfulness. There are a number of smartphone apps available that can help guide you, or you might want to even look into a class.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to destressing. The key here is to figure out what works best for you and sticking to that.
If you’re feeling stressed out with the holidays and need some guidance on how to relax, give us a call. We are happy to meet with you and help find a method to calm your mind that works.