My thoughts on breathing...
A bit more information as it occurs to me about how breathing impacts your health and well-being. If you have questions or want me to address a particular topic, please don't hesitate to contact me!
I'll be stressed for Christmas,
You can count on me.
Too much snow and shovelling,
Leaves no time for the tree!
Christmas Eve will find me,
Chugging nog and 'Beam'
I'll be stressed for Christmas
Can't find that toy of their dreams
Are you feeling a bit stressed out this Christmas season? It's not surprising really, with the the pressure to produce the "perfect" Christmas that seems to flow out of every commercial, billboard and Facebook share. Perfectly decorated gingerbread, perfectly quaint stockings hung under a perfectly accessorized mantle. And of course, "just found the perfect gift for my second cousin's niece!" Really? I'm lucky remember gifts for my in-laws!
From parties to shopping, decorating to baking...there just seems to be a never-ending list of things to do to prepare for the holidays. Add on top of that, regular life goes on - so there is still work, school and taxiing the kids here and there and everywhere. Little chance to just stop and take a breath.
The trouble is, if we don't stop to take a breath, we end up paying for it later. Who hasn't experienced the immune system break down on the first day of Christmas vacation? Finally, the hustle and bustle slows and you wake up that first morning to a scratchy throat and achey bones.
We know that too much stress isn't good for us. It weakens our immune system, disturbs our sleep and takes our bodies away from precious rest-and-repair phases. So this holiday season, instead of letting stress carry you from one task to the next, try these tips for a happier, healthier Noel!
1. Stop and smell the gingerbread. That's right, use your nose. Nose breathing stimulates our diaphragm, our main breathing muscle, to work. Simply using your diaphragm can help activate our rest-and-digest side of the nervous system and put the brakes on the fight-or-flight response. Bonus: belly breathing is good for the digestive system and will help "massage" some of that holiday baking through the system!
2. Enjoy your cup of tea. Or coffee, or hot chocolate. Pour yourself a cup, sit down and enjoy it. Wrap your fingers around the warm mug and take that time to hit the reset button. Focus your attention on the sensations of breathing, the warmth and smell of your drink, feel supported in your chair. Put your "to do" list away and simply enjoy the moment.
3. Breathe. Seriously. When we get busy and flustered, sometimes we forget to breathe. Or sometimes we just breathe poorly. So every time you sit back down in your office chair, or get behind the wheel of the car, or find yourself sitting in some other new space, take a moment to reset. Place your feet on the floor to ground yourself. Close your mouth and breathe softly in and out of your nose. Feel your belly expand gently as you breathe in, and then let go of any tension on the exhale (hint: the tensions probably in your shoulders so let them drop). Do 5 breaths, then move on to the task at hand. These mini-breaks throughout the day will do wonders for your mood and energy.
4. Go for a walk. Park at the other end of the parking lot at the mall. Park an extra block away from work. Take a brisk walk at lunch. Studies have shown, time and again, that walking is beneficial to both our physiology and our psychology. I know for me personally, I come up with my best ideas when I'm exercising!
5. Get some zzz's. I know, I know, always easier said than done. But stick with your sleep schedule and try not to stay up late fitting in that last minute batch of cookies. To settle an excited mind at night, focus on your breathing. Again, softly in and out through the nose, allowing your belly to expand on inhale and letting go of tension on exhale. See my previous posts about sleep tips to help you find a restful sleep.
Make this holiday season one to cherish, not one to "just get through."
Wishing you the best this holiday season! Breathe well and be well!
I'm a physiotherapist who is passionate about educating anyone and everyone about the impact breathing has on our health.