Inhaling Holiday Joy, Exhaling Seasonal Stress
This is the time of year when we have so very many obligatory as well as fun and engaging social events to participate in. Here’s the dilemma: How can you take care of yourself through it all?
There are the stressors that come with this season. There is a sense of having to be everything to everyone while attending countless social engagements and making sure you’re being hospitable while attending events for work and family. Additionally, there is an expectation of good cheer while getting work done and staying focused throughout each day even when you have a mile long list of to-dos. And, it all comes at a time when there may be extra family and friend obligations.
Everyone experiences this overwhelm at different levels throughout the year, yet it seems it can really come to a tipping point during the holiday season.
Seasonal Stress: Joe’s Struggle
Let me share a bit about a dear client, Joe. He is a wonderful guy who has a loving family including his cherished wife and two young children. He also has an elderly father who is not in good health and a mother-in-law who was set for surgery during the holidays.
At this time, his company was going through a major transition with a huge push for end of year performance as well as hosting a blow-out holiday company party. Added to these pressures were his wife’s seasonal social engagements (all of which he was obliged to attend) as well as their joint family and friend events.
To top it all off, Joe was constantly thinking of all the gifts he needed to find, buy and wrap – he wanted to be sure he had appropriate and thoughtful gifts for all of those on his list.
In the meantime, Joe had noticed that his blood pressure was soaring. Higher and more erratic it became. He was alerted to this as he could feel his heart thumping, on and off throughout the day, as if it was going to pound its way right out of his chest.
Then Joe Made Some Simple Changes...
We arranged a quick session which led to some simple strategies and a plan we devised together which helped him come through it all with greater ease, reduced stress, and lower blood pressure too.
There were a number of things Joe agreed to do. These were shifts in how he was moving, eating, sleeping and prioritizing. These will be shared in ongoing, upcoming blog posts, but the most noticeable and measurable change occurred when he incorporated this one super slick and easy technique: mindful breathing.
Yep, as simple as “inhale and exhale.” Joe began regularly practicing easy to do breath techniques throughout the day. Mindfully, he began by bringing awareness to each breath and removing external stressors while inviting calm, presence and clarity of mind.
We know Breathwork is mighty powerful and there is now overwhelming research to back it up:
‘There is a very direct relationship between breath rate, mood state, and autonomic nervous system state,’ says Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who studies yoga and meditation. The autonomic nervous system governs the body’s sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-restore) responses, dialing functions like heart rate, respiration, and digestion up or down as necessary in response to potential threats. (*From: The Science of Breathing)
We worked out a plan to incorporate breathing exercises, as simple as counted breath, into his every day schedule. He could do so at his desk, the breakroom, the bathroom – anywhere. He would put his earbuds in and no one would know any different. He would simply lower his eyes as if looking to his keyboard or mobile device, taking just one or two minutes to use breathwork to regroup and center himself.
Another part of the plan was to employ this practice at home before even stepping out bed to start the day off well. He found himself having better days on the whole as his entire mood and mode were profoundly and positively impacted.
Needless to say, Joe was fascinated by the simple technique of breathwork and delighted with the results. It brought him out of the fight or flight crazies and back to a well-grounded, day after day, ease. He also commented on how he was able to handle moments of high stress with a sense of calm he hadn’t ever had.
Put Your Oxygen Mask On for the Holidays
Not only is this a technique you can readily incorporate, one from which everyone can benefit – It is free, requires no special equipment, and can be done anywhere and anytime.
During this season and always, it is of utmost importance to take good care of you, literally giving yourself the oxygen mask first. This enables you feel your best and be present so you can joyfully give to others while partaking in all of your daily activities and interactions.
During the holidays, please do not forget to breathe. Add breathwork time to your calendar – Just one to two minutes a day will make a difference.
Gently rest or close your eyes, bring your shoulders down, take in breath with intention and think of releasing as you exhale…See, it’s already working!
Breathe well and be well this holiday season and well beyond.