It’s that time of year again – Christmas! And while it can be a magical time of year filled with excitement, family and anticipation for what Santa might bring, it can also be a time of stress.
It’s less than a month until Christmas; how are you feeling? Do you feel like you’re running out of time? You still haven’t organised the dinner menu for the big day? You haven’t had a chance to buy everyone’s gifts yet? Has your ‘favourite’ (cue sarcasm) uncle just told you his extended family will also be coming to yours for lunch? Do you just feel like there is no time for you?
Did you know, stress has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including insomnia, depression, high blood pressure and mild cognitive impairment (MCI – a precursor to Alzheimer’s)?
Unfortunately, our typical way of relaxing (e.g. zoning out in front of the TV or tucking into a big bowl of comfort food – pasta, chocolate or ice-cream? or maybe all three anyone?) is doing little to reduce the damaging effects of stress.
What really helps – and only needs to take 5 mins – are deep breathing exercises. And bonus: it’s free and can be done anywhere, anytime!
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—bringing your awareness away from the worries in your head, quieting your mind and letting you focus on the now.
So how do you relax through deep breathing?
Visualisation combined with deep breathing is a powerful tool to halt stress in its track. You can do this exercise anywhere, but we really like to do it laying down (and, maybe a little bit over the top, but with our feet facing in the direction of a window or door – read on to see why).
(1) To start, imagine all of the tension in your shoulders floating away.
(2) Now imagine two holes in the soles – one in each.
(3) Take a deep breath. As you do so, visualize hot air flowing through these holes moving slowly up your legs, through your abdomen and filling your lungs.
(4) As the hot air moves through your body, relax each muscle it ‘touches’ (e.g. as you visual the air moving up through your shins, visualise your calf muscles relaxing).
(5) Now, as you exhale, reverse the flow of the hot hair – you should be visualising the hot air moving down through your body and exiting (taking with it the tension in your body) the holes in the soles of your feet (and, if like us, you have your feet facing a window or door, you can take it a step further and imagine the tension and stress flowing out of the window or door).
The best part about this exercise is that you can do it anytime you feel like you need to relax and calm down…even in the middle of that shopping mall as you rush around buying last minute gifts (because, let’s face it, everyone else is too stressed also trying to buy those last minute gifts that they won’t even notice).