I swear that the world begins to spin faster this time of year and my ability to keep my balance (and my mind) begins to diminish. Commitments seem to pile themselves into my schedule as I race around from work parties, to school functions, the BBQ season kicks off and we're meant to uncover enough money to fund gifts for 37 of our relatives, colleagues and friends.
Anyone feel their heart rate speeding up just at the thought of the upcoming few weeks?!
This year, I want to encourage us all to take some time to be mindful. Find one, two or five minute pockets to just stop, close your eyes and focus on your breath. I want to encourage us to remember that our routines are a firm foundation to our days and without them we can feel scattered. Just because you're busy, don't give up the things you do each day that nourish you. We are actually far more effective when we work in concentrated bursts, rather than non-stop for 12 hours+ (and I don't just mean employed work, many of us are working massive days as mothers, fathers, and community members). So stop. Regularly.
Stop to eat Breakfast. Stop to exercise. Stop to rest. Stop to read...
Stop to breathe.
We have a bunch of body systems and organs that operate without our ability to manipulate them on command, our heart, liver, immune system etc, but our breath is different. We can conciously choose to make adjustments to it at any time. And our breath can have a fantastic effect on other systems in our body - namely our nervous system.
When we practice deep breathing it stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), the rest, heal and digest system. Alternately a fast shallow breath can turn on the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the fight-or-flight response, a faster heart rate and increased blood pressure.
And the best part, we have control, so even when we are feeling stressed and have that sense of dread and anxiety rising, we can consciously control our breathing and fool our system into calming down - which is so good for both our physical and mental health!
Below, I outline a breathing exercise that will work to calm your nervous system in times of stress, but I recommend trying it before your stressed so that you can just turn to it when you need it. Even if your not feeling under any pressure it's still a good nourishing practice for your body because it is when we are at rest that our bodies turn to healing and weight loss.
Give it a go!
Light up your Parasympathetic Nervous System.
-A breathing exercise
Place your hands on your body, one on your belly and one on your chest. Take a short minute to notice your breath here. Which muscles are you using to drive your breath?
Now exhale, sighing your breath out as if you have just been told something that hasn't amused you. At the same time allowing your shoulders and face to relax.
On the following inhale, breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, feel the hand on your belly pushed out as you draw the breath in.
Pause at the top of your breath.
(Often people say hold for a count of 2. Everyone is different and so is your timing, but imagine this is a comfortable pause, and then exhale.)
On the exhale, breathe out through your mouth again for a count of 6-7.