Just before Thanksgiving, we wrote about How to stay Zen on Black Friday– certainly no easy task if you’ve ever ventured out to the stores on this most popular of shopping days. It’s doable, however, if you take steps to put yourself in a calm state and you plan your shopping outing thoroughly.
In many cases though, Black Friday is just the beginning of a relatively frantic season which seems to continue through Valentine's Day. The holidays are wonderful, but for adults they also require a lot of work. You’ll be out at grocery stores, toiling through busy shopping malls, stuck in traffic around town, and possibly traveling. It’s usually all worth it as you celebrate a holiday and enjoy time with friends and family (and probably a few tasty meals!). You can enjoy the whole process even more of you extend that Zen-like feeling through holiday seasons and the rest of the year. So – how can you keep yourself calm and centered through these times?
There are a lot of things you can try. But one thing you can do on a daily basis that has at least a temporary calming effect is to practice breathing techniques. You don’t have to dive into full-blown yoga (though it certainly wouldn’t hurt), but consider practicing one or all of these techniques a few times a day. You may find that it calms your senses, clears your mind, and resets your stress level to neutral.
1. 4-7-8 Breathing
This is a trendy technique these days, and one that is also called the relaxing breathing exercises (which is about as straightforward a title as you could ask for). It’s a simple exercise to follow. The numbers simply refer to counts: 4 seconds for inhalation, 7 for retention, and 8 for exhalation before repeating, four or five times. There’s a little bit more to doing it properly. For instance you’ll want to sit still with erect posture, and your tongue should be positioned such that it touches the roof of your mouth just behind your upper teeth. You breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Doing this just a few times a day is supposed to relieve stress and anxiety, and can also train you to breathe more deeply in general.
2. Sama Vritti
This is a yoga technique that’s very similar to 4-7-8 breathing with different counts, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s one of the more popular breathing exercises out there. You can find it in articles specifically about calming breathing techniques, and you can practice it through yoga apps and online programs. There is even a write-up of Sama Vritti in a piece about breathing tips for gamers, arguing that practiced breathing naturally intensifies your focus on other tasks. The idea here is to count inhalation and exhalation through the nose, in equal measure, Again, a seated position and erect posture is recommended, and four- or five-second intervals are good to start with.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is a little bit strange sounding and in fact isn’t quite as well known of a technique as the two discussed above. That said, alternate nostril breathing is certainly gaining steam, thanks in large part to 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, of all people. Clinton swears by the technique, both in her book and in recorded podcast interviews; she even says it helped her to find calmness after her dramatic election loss. This technique is quite simple. You need only sit in a comfortable position and use your index finger and thumb to block one nostril, inhaling and exhaling through the other, before switching. Think of it something like Sama Vritti in one nostril at a time.
If you’re not familiar with breathing exercises like these, they can seem a little tedious or repetitive. But if you’re facing a hectic season and looking for ways to stay calm, you should try dedicating yourself to them. They don’t take much time, and you might be shocked at how well they clear your head and reset your stress level.