By Andrea Renee Rivera | Certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor
The holidays can trigger a veritable plethora of emotions including anxiety and depression — major holiday stress factors. For many reasons such as distance or illness not all of us can spend quality time with our loved ones for the holidays. In addition economic challenges can also come to the forefront as the pressures of gift giving and travel expenses can put extra strain on an already tight budget. According to a survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association, the top three holiday stressors are “lack of time, lack of money and commercialism or hype” -Berktold J, Greeenberg A. “Holiday Stress.” American Psychological Association, 2006.
When faced with such challenges this holiday season and any time of the year these simple yet very effective top 5 de-stress tools can be practiced as needed to reach the state of calm and strength we all need to face and overcome our challenges:
1. 4/8 deep abdominal breathing tool
Place your hands on your abdomen and inhale into your hands to the count of 4 and then exhale slowly to the count of 8. This breath makes the body switch from the sympathetic fight or flight stress response to the parasympathetic rest, digest, repair stress response in as little at 2 minutes. This powerful and simple tool can stop panic attacks with heart palpitations by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the nervous system. This can be practiced as needed any place, any time alone or in public.
2. Restoration Pose
Lay on your back with your lower legs and feet up on a chair for 15-20 minutes. This resets our nervous system by reducing the work load on the heart, slowing the heart rate and relieving low back pain. It also produces a greater sense of mental clarity as well as boosting ones energy. This can be practiced as needed to de-stress and recharge. When practiced daily at least once a day for 20 minutes an overall greater sense of strength, calm and mental focus can be felt throughout the day making us less reactive to stress.
3. Guided imagery meditation
What we think about creates a physiological ripple effect response throughout our entire body. This mind body connection can work in our favor or against us. When we take the time on purpose to visualize ourselves in a peaceful, inspiring and healing natural environment our whole body reacts as if we are actually there putting us back into the parasympathetic rest, digest, repair ideal nervous system response. Set an alarm on your smart phone for as little as 2 minutes and simply close your eyes and imagine being in a beautiful natural environment in as much detail as possible with all 5 senses. This practice makes our body react as if we are physically in nature bringing our own body’s and brain waive frequency down to that of nature. The frequency of nature is 8 HZ, “The ordinary thought waves created by the human brain range from 14Hz to 40Hz. This range only includes certain types of dendrites belonging to brain cells, predominantly within the left (the more rational) hemisphere of the brain, which is the center of activity. If the two hemispheres of our brain are synchronized with each other at 8Hz, they work more harmoniously and with a maximum flow of information. In other words, the frequency of 8Hz seems to be the key to the full and sovereign activation potential of our brain.
4. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
Take the time each day to write down in a special gratitude notebook at least 5 things you are grateful for in your life. This can be done in as little at 15 minutes once a day at the start or end of your day. When you keep a special journal for this practice you can also take the time to read over past entries whenever you are feeling down to lift your spirits and re-energize. “Recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods and even the survival of our marriages. As Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Center, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”
5. Practice Forgiveness to Resolve Conflict
The Hawaiian tradition of hoʻoponopono has been used for centuries to resolve family and community conflict. “I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you” is the simple hoʻoponopono prayer that can be repeated silently in one’s mind when thinking of a loved one we are in conflict with at any given time. The forgiveness asked for doesn’t need to be about what wrong someone has done to the other person, it can be about self forgiveness for not knowing how to resolve a conflict or for allowing oneself to be emotionally triggered and upset from the behavior of one’s self and others. This simple prayer can help us come to a place of tolerance and compassion for both our self and others at any given time.
Andrea Renee Rivera is a Certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor, Medical Chigong Practitioner and Masters Candidate at Yo San University of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.