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Tap your holiday stress-busting superpower: Breathing

Posted at 5:04 PM, Nov 17, 2017

The holiday season is kicking off and our stress levels along with it. To help minimize tension and anxiety throughout this festive time of the year, all you need to do is breathe.

Practicing a type of breathing called diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing can be really effective against stress because it reduces tension, takes your mind off the chaos and promotes mindfulness. 

Deep breathing works by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers our bodies to release hormones that can lower our heart rate and blood pressure.

It’s very easy and I love it because you can do this anywhere and anytime. 

Your diaphragm is a large muscle at the base of your lungs and your abdominal muscles help move it. 

If you place your hands on your lower ribs, you can feel them expand out when you take a deep breath in as the air fills your lower belly.  And when you exhale, they’ll move back towards each other. 

You can feel a change in stress levels in about 90 seconds. What’s great is you don’t need to worry if your eyes are open or closed, or whether you’re sitting up or lying down. 

But there are a few things I want to share so my prescriptions are:

1. When practicing, focus on your breath. Feel how cool it is when inhaling and how warm it feels upon exhaling.

2. Keep your breathing slow and controlled. Aim for a 5-count inhale and a 7-count exhale. 

3. You can also use words and imagery. Think “peace and tranquility” when breathing in and imagine tension releasing as you exhale.  

4. Make deep breathing a habit. Practice 3 to 4 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes.

Many of us breathe high in our chest or we shallow breathe. This is not helpful because we have blood vessels in the lower area of our lungs that carry oxygen to cells. 

If they don’t get enough, we can feel anxious or short of breath. So whenever you feel stress coming on, that’s your cue to turn exasperated sighs into deep belly breaths.