The holidays, for all their warmth and merry-making, can be the most challenging time of the year. The expectations, entertaining, and frenetic pace can wear you down, create extra stress, and make finding your holiday spirit as difficult as finding a snowball in – well, you know. Combine all of that with the prevalence of colds and flu this time of year, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm of humbug.
Your secret weapon for the holidays is your breath. Long associated with yoga mats and mystics, the science is in – and proves that the simple practice of intentional breathing can boost your energy, level out those emotional roller-coaster rides, and significantly strengthen your ability to fight off those pesky winter bugs.
Fight or Flight for the Holidays
Stress and hours of sitting every day tend to push us towards a pattern of shorter, shallow breathing. Unfortunately the body associates that pattern with the fight or flight response. Not the space you want be in during the holidays. Replacing that habit of short, shallow breathing with a slower deeper breathing pattern – the way you were breathing when you came into this world – will provide you with an array of mental, physical, and emotional benefits that can put much more ho, ho, ho in your holidays.
Smooth Out Your Emotions
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed? Someone just cut you off and took your parking space? Take ten deep breaths (inhale for 3 seconds, and exhale for 3 seconds). You’ll have a whole new outlook. This simple exercise literally takes one minute of your time. It calms you down mentally and physically while it shifts your brain away from being emotionally reactive towards more rational, creative, problem solving thought patterns.
Boost Your Immune System
Feel a cold or flu coming on? Lie down (if possible), close your eyes, and imagine you are filling your body like a balloon, from head to toe, with each breath. Imagine the balloon (your body) is deflating and emptying completely with each exhale. Doing this for 5 minutes bolsters your body’s immune system and defenses.
Ninety percent of the energy your body uses comes directly from your breath, so stopping to take few deep breaths throughout the day will give you that extra energy you need for the holidays.
Enjoy the Moment
All of these exercises have another benefit in common: they bring you into the moment. Focusing on your breath, even for a moment or two reels you in from worrying about what might happen tomorrow or next week. It brings you back to the here and now – right where everything is actually happening – and allows you to enjoy the moment.
Try these simple exercises and hopefully they’ll help you find a bit more peace and joy in the holidays!