Family gatherings, shopping madness, office parties, trying to clear your desk before the holidays and bad weather all add to our stress levels at this time of year. Soon our bodies are swimming in the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol hijacking any possibility of rational thought and emotional control.
Coupled with this seasonal increase in stress, our regular relief mechanisms such as exercise, talking to a friend or having a quiet evening in can also be denied just when we need them most. If your usual avenue of dealing with stress isn’t available, then here is a simple, but effective, alternative.
This is a quick and easy breathing technique that will give you rapid relief when you need it. It can work in the heat of the moment to regain control and it can also help improve your overall resilience too. It is the perfect solution to rapidly calm nerves, focus the mind and help you to think more clearly.
The beauty of this exercise is its simplicity and flexibility. You can use it anywhere and at any time. You can complete this exercise sitting down or standing up, eyes open or closed.
The steps that you need to carry out are:
- Get into a comfortable and relaxed position.
- This can be sitting or standing as the situation permits.
- The key point is to keep your spine straight, shoulders relaxed and neck relaxed with your chin in (as if there is a ball underneath it).
- Your eyes can be opened or closed as you like and the situation allows.
- Breathe in deeply, and smoothly, through your nose and out through either your nose or mouth.
- The aim is to have a continuous flow of air with your diaphragm gently lowering on the inhalation and rising naturally on the exhalation.
- Once you are happy with your nice smooth flow of air in and out, you now need to elongate your breaths to breathe in for a count of 6 and then out for a count of 6.
- The key is to find a cycle of 5 to 6 seconds breathing in and 5 to 6 seconds breathing out that you can sustain comfortably and without holding your breath at any point.
- Remember to keep your posture and spine upright, your shoulders and neck relaxed.
If you keep this breathing up for just 30 seconds (less than 3 complete breathing cycles) it will be all that you need to interrupt the cycle of stress and rescue your thinking brain. To make this exercise more powerful, add in some positive thoughts. Recalling a pleasant memory or thinking of something good will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, help you to switch off your Fight / Flight / Freeze reaction and it will dump the cortisol and adrenaline out of your system.
To use this exercise to improve your overall resilience, find 10 to 12 minutes a day to carry out this breathing. I used to do this on my commute or just before going to bed – it was amazing how well I slept afterwards and gained even more benefit.
This simple balanced breathing exercise can also be a gateway to a whole wider field of improved self-awareness and decision making. To find out more about this and other techniques then please contact me at the Secret Skills website to find out how I can support you.
In the meantime, please do feel free to print this out and keep it with you so that you can practice it regularly. Regular practice means that you will be able to easily call on it anytime that you feel pressured and need to regain control.
And, finally, I wish you a stress free Christmas and an excellent New Year.