Holiday Stress? Give Your Body The Gift of an (Actual) Deep Breath
I’m writing this blog because of a conversation I recently had with a friend and I think it could help you this holiday season.
My friend and I were talking about holiday stress. (Anyone else feel it?) So many things can stress us out at the holidays, but for her, it was family. “Inevitably at some point I’ll have to leave the table and go into the kitchen to take a deep breath,” she told me.
"But do you really take a deep breath?” I asked my friend.
“Well I…” “I mean” “I’m not really sure,” she told me.
We all have heard the line, “Take a deep breath” over and over again. We say it to each other all the time! We instinctively know it’s good for us. And yet…. when I was talking to my friend I realized most of the time we miss out on the power of a deep breath without knowing it!
Taking a deep breath is more of the most powerful gifts you can give your body this holiday because it immediately puts the brakes on your body’s stress response.
But that’s if you really take a deep breath. There’s a difference!
Without getting all “sciencey,” when you feel “stress” it’s because there has been a physical response in your body to something that happening. It involves a whole cascade of body parts, hormones, and systems, including your nervous system, which has two parts that balance each other, your sympathetic nervous system (the gas) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the brakes).
What you really need to know is that stress activates your body’s sympathetic nervous system.
It’s like your body has hit the gas and is spinning its wheels a million miles a minute.
It’s actually a fairly strong response - and while your body can handle the immediate response, it gets harmful if your body stays there too long. Another way to look at it, eventually the gas will run out and the engine will start smoking or in regards to your health, you’ll develop chronic diseases or feel unwell.
Here’s where the deep breath comes in. It helps your body activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
It’s like your body activates the brakes on the stress response.
Your body decides how long it has to stay in a stressed state with the gas on full throttle and when it can put on the brakes by monitoring your breath, the pace of how fast or slow you breathe, and how much your lungs inflate.
That’s why it has to be a deep breath!
When you experience stress, your breath gets shorter and you start to breathe more shallowly in the top of your lungs - without even knowing it. It’s called upper chest (thoracic) breathing, and it doesn’t have the calming effect that lower chest (diaphragmatic) has on your body.
When you take a truly deep breath and your lungs fully expand, your body believes it is safe and can turn on a chain reaction that helps stop, reverse, or turn off the cascade of events the stress trigger initiated. Your:
heart rate slows
blood pressure decreases
muscle tension decreases
and you feel a growing sense of calm in your body and mind.
And it all starts as soon as you take the first long, deep breath! Don’t wonder like my friend did, instead, make sure you’re taking a deep breath by counting and paying attention to your lungs!
Try it. And when stress hits - which it will - take an intentional breath. A deep breath. Give your body a chance to know it’s safe and capable. And most importantly give it a chance to put on the breaks.
It is a free, ever available powerful boost for your body that you have with you around the clock!
I would love for you to be able to take a truly deep breath and use it to its full potential this holiday. Your body will thank you,