Here they come – the holidays – for many people, the busiest time of the year.
It can be a good thing to keep yourself busy, especially if the tasks that occupy your days are things that contribute to the joy of the holiday season.
Shopping… cooking… hosting parties (and dashing off to parties hosted by friends)… attending holiday concerts and plays… these can all be things you look forward to all year long.
But the hectic pace of the holiday season can leave you breathless!
And your family doctor will advise you to “take a breath,” and not to let the fast pace of the season go from fun-and-frolic to stressful-and-sick!
When you’re busy, running from task to event, you might leave yourself more vulnerable to picking up the bug that’s going around the neighborhood (or the office).
So, ask your family physician, and you’ll probably hear that breathing is actually a great way to counteract this vulnerability – and to keep you healthy throughout the frenzy of the holidays.
Focusing On Your Breathing
Does this surprise you? Really, isn’t breathing something you’re already doing – involuntarily – every minute of every day?
But breathing is also a practice which, if focused and strengthened, can bring you many health benefits of which you may not have been aware.
Take a deep breath, right now. Take in as much air as you can, smoothly, and then push it all the way out, slowly. Don’t hold your breath.
Feel the difference? One good, deep breath can actually cleanse your entire system, renew your focus, and relax the tension brought on by the hectic holiday season.
There’s a reason people say things like “take a breath” or “keep breathing” when they perceive you’re anxious or stressed-out (though these things are not always said in a friendly manner!).
And your doctor will tell you breathing is more than just an involuntary act. It’s a practice that can help you live a longer and stronger life.
One Exercise You Can Do To Strengthen Your Breathing
Good breathing practices are especially important here in Colorado, where the altitude can literally take your breath away!
So whether you’re new to the Rocky Mountain region, or a native who’s lived here all your life, consider trying this “breathing exercise” to learn whether better breathing can actually improve your health (and make you less vulnerable to sickness).
First, get into a comfortable position, seated in a chair indoors, with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
Close your eyes – you want to minimize distractions so you can really focus on your breathing.
Take in a deep breath, counting in your mind to four (slowly) as you inhale. Try to count about four seconds (but don’t watch a clock or timer – that would defeat the purpose of relaxing your body).
Try to inhale as smoothly as possible, and don’t hold your breath to get to four seconds!
Now exhale, counting silently to eight “seconds,” smoothly pushing all the air out of your lungs. And immediately begin your next deep inhalation.
Do this “two-to-one” breathing exercise for just a few breaths – maybe three to five minutes – and then open your eyes.
You’ll probably find that this “timing” – four seconds in, eight seconds out – actually feels too fast after just a couple of minutes. If so, go to five-and ten, or six-and-twelve… whatever makes you feel relaxed and comfortable.
And try not to think about anything! Again, you want to “get away from it all” for just a couple of minutes. One expert in meditation described it thus: “When you find yourself thinking, imagine each thought as a log on the river, and let it float away.”
Breathing. It’s something we all do… and something we can all do better! When the hectic pace of the holidays leaves you breathless, try a three-minute breathing exercise (or ask your family doctor for other great relaxation tips). When holiday cheer is “in the air,” make sure you’re getting a plentiful supply!
This article is written by Anthony Cerullo. He is working at Founders Family Medicine and Urgent Care in Castle Rock as one of the urgent care providers.