By Charmaine Caldwell, PhD, LPC-S
Stressful situations are a part of everyday life, but this time of the year seems to be stressful times four! Shopping, cooking, cleaning, entertaining can cause us to feel tired and frustrated because of all the things we think we must do. It can be difficult to see through the never-ending lists to find something to be thankful for or to celebrate.
The World Wide Web is filled with suggestions for easy meals to prepare, lists to help us be organized, easy cook and freeze recipes to get a head start for the holidays, and maybe a few suggestions for having fun. At times you may feel stressed because of the self-imposed grind we put ourselves through—even having fun can be stressful. Healthy stress can help us get things done, meet deadlines, and accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. What we often do not realize is that our body’s stress response naturally kicks in, causing rapid breathing, a racing heart and a rising blood pressure. We just know that we do not feel well. Unchecked stress can lead to serious conditions such as hypertension, anxiety disorders and addiction.
The good news is that you can take control over your stress by practicing a simple and free exercise that science and thousands of years of practice have proven to be very effective. This exercise would be to take a breathing break instead of a smoke break. Following are controlled breathing exercises that can be done anywhere or anytime you start to feel like stress is taking over and you are losing a sense of calm: 1) Box breathing: inhale for a count of four; pause for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, then pause for a count of four before beginning again. 2) 5-7-3 breathing: simply follow a 5-7-3 pattern of inhaling for a count of five, exhale for a count of seven and pause for a count of three. Begin again. 3) Peace-pause breathing, close your eyes so you can visualize spelling out the word “peace.” Lengthen and deepen your breathing to follow this pace. P-e-a-c-e- for inhale, same for pause, and same for exhale.
Take care of yourself during this holiday season!!
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