Self-Care for the Holidays: Deep Breath

“When people ask me what the most important thing is in life, I answer: ‘Just breathe.’” 
~ Yoko Ono

December is upon us. Thanksgiving has passed (for those in the US) and now comes the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

Life in general is busy but it becomes even more so over the holidays. You make a list, try to find the perfect gift for everyone on said list, and plan the perfect meal.

In all the busy-ness of life and especially the holiday rush and stress, it’s easy to forget to breathe.

One holiday, I was rushing around trying to prepare my house for the guests who were due to arrive in a few short hours. I was worrying over whether they were going to enjoy the food I had prepared and whether I had prepared enough. Was the house clean enough? I questioned myself. There seemed to be something on my ever-growing to-do list to juggle. I was running around snapping at anything and anybody in my way.

Overwhelmed and distressed, I sat down and put my head in my hands. My then nine-year-old son who is blessed with autism, came over to me, grasped me by my shoulders, and said, “Deep breath, Mom. Deep breath.”

What a powerful reminder that I wasn’t taking care of myself. All I needed to do was breathe.

With tears in my eyes, I filled my lungs to capacity. He did it with me. Calmer and more in control of my emotions, I was able to do all I needed to do to throw a successful gathering.

Breathing as Self-Care

When the things you need to do have taken over, take a moment to breath in and breath out. This simple act will go a long way towards settling your frazzled nerves. This is the single most best thing you can do to take care of yourself.

Taking a moment to get air into your lungs helps you refocus. When you are focused you make better decisions. (And you give those around you a much-needed break.)

Breathing is F.R.E.E.

When people talk about self-care, you probably think of having to go out and buy specialty products, items, and such. Not in this case. Breathing is free. It is a natural process. Let me clarify. Breathing is natural. You only need to inhale and exhale. It doesn’t require your thought to happen.  No special equipment needed.

Kick Stress to the Curb

You may be thinking, Pat, you said breathing is a natural process. Think back to a situation when you held your breath without knowing you were holding it. Until you expelled the air built up in your lungs. You were most likely in some sort of distress or stressful situation.

It is during times of high stress you need to remember to breathe. Deeply. Deep breathing is more of a conscious activity and can seem unnatural. Becoming conscious of your breath, you kick that pesky stress to the curb.

Once you’re feeling less tension, better decisions can be made. You’re able to look at the items on your ever-growing to-do list with a different eye. You may be able to identify a few items that can be removed or put off for a later time. You may even realize you have everything under better control than you thought.

Breathing Deeply

Many people believe that you have to designate a specific amount of time focusing on your breathing. I am here to tell you that you don’t. All you need is one moment.

There is a whole practice centered around developing breathwork.

That is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about taking a minute to recenter yourself. Calm yourself. Care for yourself.

You can do this anywhere, at any time, and no one needs to know what you’re doing.

Here is a simple exercise you can use to reduce stress and boost your own self-care and self-confidence:

  1. Sit or lie down, Make yourself as comfortable as possible.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  4. Hold for a count of four.
  5. Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.

This takes practice.

When I do this breathing exercise, I find that I feel more centered and grounded.

In our regular everyday lives practicing self-care is difficult and often forgotten. The holidays bring an increased need to take a pause for yourself. Consider this me standing next to you whispering, “deep breath, deep breath”.

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