Ahhh, yes the holidays. Often it feels like Halloween through the New Year are one big blur of activity and increased stress. Here are four simple steps you can take to reduce your holiday stress and anxiety.
Yes, it can be that simple! But you need to take slow, deep, relaxing breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you are stressed you often unconsciously hold your breath or take very shallow breaths from your upper chest. But when you take a full, deep breath from your diaphragm, you are engaging the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs from our brain right to our gut, with many branches along the way. Stimulating the vagus nerve helps creates a calming effect on your mind and body.
One effective breath that seems to help calm almost immediately is one from Dr. Andrew Weil; his 4-7-8 breathing technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRPh_GaiL8s
- Place the tip of your tongue behind the back of your front teeth right at the beginning of the ridge of the top of your mouth; hold this position throughout the breathing process
- Take a big breath in through our nose to the count of 4
- Hold your breath to the count of 7
- Exhale to the count of 8
- Repeat 4 of these breath cycles
Return to Intention
Often holiday stress comes from “have to’s” or “should’s”. While traditions have their place and can help comfort and bring people together, traditions left unchecked can create more obligation than joy. Before you commit to holiday plans, identify your intention behind the holiday, the gathering or the activity. What are your priorities, your values and your intentions for yourself, your family, your loved ones? And then act accordingly. You’re sure to bring more joy into your life and to the lives of those around you by acting according to your own values and gifting yourself with the freedom to choose how best to spend your holiday time with those you love.
Expectations can allow for fun anticipation, and they can also create disappointment and upset when they don’t pan out the way we envisioned. Everything changes…but that’s harder for many of us to remember during the holidays. Maybe your favorite relative can not host this year’s holiday gathering. Perhaps someone gets too sick to celebrate. Maybe there’s a fun new activity that you’d like to incorporate into this year’s holiday plans that will displace another activity. Learning to “be in the moment” more often, can help you “go with the flow” and adjust to changes more easily.
Let Technology Help
As much as technology can contribute to stress and anxiety, there’s at least one way it can also help reduce holiday stress this season. One of the best Apps I’ve found is called “Insight Timer”. It’s a free app that teaches meditation, times your meditation sessions, tracks your progress and makes available thousands of guided meditations to calm and soothe.
Cultivating a daily practice of meditation, even just 3-5 minutes per day, can help calm, center and reduce stress. When you are still and quiet, you can more easily accomplish the three steps above; taking deep relaxing breaths, identifying your own values and priorities and being in the moment to better embrace change.
Full Circle is always here to support you in reducing your holiday stress and creating a healthier you, year-round! http://fullcirclecounselingservices.com/counseling-services/individual-counseling/
Wishing you a calm, peaceful, joyful and heart-centered holiday season!