It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holidays can also be stressful. You might find all the good cheer easily takes a turn for the worse, and before you know it, you might be overwhelmed.
The tension can increase because of breathing – when we’re anxious, we often take rapid, shallow breaths directly from the chest. If you need help getting through the holiday season, try using one of these three breathing techniques!
The Relaxing Breath
The Relaxing Breath, also known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise, is a great, simple tactic for calming your mind and centering your focus. Find yourself a quiet, comfortable place to sit, keeping your back straight and try this:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper front teeth. (Keep it in this spot through the whole breathing exercise.)
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose, counting to four in your mind.
- Hold the breath for seven mental seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound as you make a mental count of eight.
It counts for one breath. Repeat the cycle – inhaling for four, holding for seven, and exhaling for eight – three more times, for a total of four breaths.
If you’re a yoga practitioner, you know how pranayama – the Sanskrit word for yogic breathing – can help your emotional and mental well-being. When you can’t find the time for yoga, use Simhasana to your benefit this holiday season.
Simhasana is the Sanskrit name for the Lion’s Breath technique, and this deep breathing exercise sees you sticking your tongue out and “roaring” like a lion. It’s related to the fifth chakra, located around your thyroid; it’s the seat of creativity, communication, and expression. Simhasana is known to help relax the muscles in your face and jaw, which tense up subconsciously during stressful times.
For Simhasana, find a quiet room and take a comfortable, seated position, leaning forward slightly with your hands on your knees or the floor:
- Spread your fingers wide.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, stretching it toward your chin.
- Breathe out with force, carrying the exhale across the back of your tongue.
- While exhaling, make a sound like (such as ha) from deep within your abdomen. This is the “roar” of Lion’s Breath.
Take a few normal breaths after one exercise, then repeat Simhasana up to seven times. Afterwards, you might find yourself speaking up in situations where stress and tension would encourage you to shy away!
Do you often find yourself overwhelmed in a social situation from which you can’t tactfully remove yourself? Mindfulness breathing may be able to help you overcome these feelings. It’s a basic-yet-powerful meditation practice that grounds you at the moment, and you can use it wherever you are!
Mindful breathing focuses on your breathing and helps you bring attention to the present without letting it drift to thoughts of the past or future. Take deep breaths and repeat a phrase – if you’re in a social setting, repeat it in your mind – as you inhale or exhale. Your phrase could be a sound like om, a positive word like peace, or any sentence special to you that helps calm your mind.
Focusing on the breath is particularly helpful because it serves as an anchor–something you can turn your attention to at any time if you start to feel stressed or carried away by negative emotions. It will help you let go and relax, and when you notice your mind drifting, take a deep breath and gently return your attention to the present.