Health and Wellness
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It's normal to feel a rise in stress this time of year—more than 60% of Americans report elevated stress at the holidays. When you pair that with the stressors of a pandemic, you get an unusually tense holiday season.
And this is all on top of a pandemic that is affecting our holiday plans and whether we can see family or not.
What does that all boil down to? The understanding that stress is prevalent this holiday season. And there are other quick science-backed ways to center yourself and find calm when panic begins to bubble up.
Focus on your breathing. Breathing is the basis for many meditative and calming technique. Breathing exercises are intended to regulate, slow and deepen your breathing, which “down-regulates” or calms your nervous system. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which is a part of our parasympathetic nervous system—the rest and digest response that slows and regulates our heart rates, lowers our blood pressure, and relaxes our muscles. It sends our body the overall message that “everything is okay.” The vagus nerve also tells the brain that all systems are now chill, which brings you a sense of peacefulness.
The best part is that there are many different ways to focus on your breathing, you are bound to find one that feels good. Here are four to try.
For all of these, it’s helpful to find a relaxed comfortable position sitting or lying down. But you can do them anywhere at any time—in the car, cooking dinner, even during a work meeting. Notice how fast they help you settle.
1. Belly breathing is a good beginner breathing exercise to help you become aware of your breath and deepen it.
2. Equal breathing is great for when your heartbeat is fast or feels irregular. Studies show that it can help regulate it.
3. Paced breathing helps slow your heart beat, because it tends to quicken on the inhale and slow on the exhale.
4. 365 breathing is popular with therapists who advocate making this kind of stress relieving exercise a daily routine. Studies suggest that beyond helping in a particular moment of stress, a consistent breathing practice may make permanent changes in your brain that render you more resilient in moments of stress.
If you’re looking for guidance on how to better manage stress during this time, the Care team is here to help. Open the app today to speak with a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse in minutes.