Take… a deep … Breath
Every year dozens of articles come out in popular magazines about the stress of midwinter holidays, Christmas and New Years in particular. Whole books are devoted to the subject. They recommend you should decrease outrageous expectations, tolerate relatives you don’t see for a reason, practice gratitude to bring yourself joy and force cheerfulness on your heart at a time you’re feeling stressed, lonely or depressed.
A few of you reading this will find that joy. The rest of us will just feel guilty for not achieving happiness through being grateful for all of the blessing we know we have.
My solution is so absurdly simple it’s laughable even to mention it. Breath.
I was first introduced to the science behind slow conscious breathing by Dr. Emma Seppälä, a researcher and teacher in the science of well-being, when she asked to do her breath training exercised with a couple of veterans groups I was working with. I was troubled by PTSD from my time in Iraq and Afghanistan but too proud to admit it so when she proposed that her breathing techniques could calm panic, decrease anxiety and help with PTSD I was skeptical. After the second group session I couldn’t deny it. I felt better. Each slow deep breath you take signals your body that danger isn’t imminent and that in turn releases calming chemicals into the bloodstream and up to the brain.
And it’s easy. You can do it anywhere and no one else even needs to know.
For me counting to five works as I slowly breathe in and out, but I also have an app on my phone that helps me practice when I’m in the car or need a minute to myself, calm.com. It plays the nature sound of your choice as it simply says the words; Take… a…deep…breath.
Will it cure your holiday stress or winter doldrums? Probably not, but it may be just enough to keep your shoulders from tightening and your jaw from clenching as you enter that room full of people and let just a hint of a smile through instead.