Don’t leave home without your lungs!
My wife and I were attending a Bar Mitzvah over the weekend and it happened to be hosted at a nice Italian restaurant at our local mall. The restaurant was fine and the celebration was wonderful, but the amount of people walking around the mall was unprecedented. I’ve never seen so many people shopping, walking around, and scrambling to get all their last minute items. It definitely takes a tough skin to trudge through the droves of people fighting for position at the sale rack. How do you deal with it?
Deep breaths you say? Well, you’d be right. It’s a great start anyway. One easy, stress reducing way to deal with the anxiety produced by overwhelming crowds is simply deep breaths. Pull off to the side of the crowd, stand tall and take in a nice deep breath. Then let it go with the same energy, but see if you can exhale a bit longer than you inhaled. Then do another and another. Give yourself at least 3 big breaths and you’ll immediately notice your energy relax. You’ll be ready to get back into the holiday madness, hopefully this time, with less tension in your shoulders and neck.
The second breathing technique is a little more specific and a little more powerful. This one you’ll also find a spot on your own such as right off to the side, or even the nearest restroom if you’re really panicked. Take a deep inhale for 5 seconds. Most of us do not breathe in for 5 seconds, so it may feel challenging at first, but you’ll get there pretty quickly. Then hold your breath in for a full 2 seconds and let it go over 8 seconds. That’s the hard part in the beginning, but it only takes 15 seconds to reset your system. I recommend three rounds, that’s less than 1 minute. It is called limbic breathing. The limbic system controls your emotions and this is a great tool to regroup during a tough time.
Last but definitely no least is a more forceful technique to be used in times of high anxiety. From the yoga practice it is commonly referred to as Kapalabhati or breath of fire, though literally translated means skull shining breath. You may not be able to be as inconspicuous with this one, so that restroom stall might be your best option. Unless of course you’re okay looking a bit strange outside the Apple store.
The technique is a quick forceful exhale or a forceful engaging of the stomach, which then forces the breath out. As you release your engaged abdomen, the air comes back into your lungs like a vacuum. You want to get into a rhythm of breathing and forcing the breath out. It takes a while and you may cough or snort, hence the privacy. You want to build your forceful engagements for 30-60 seconds. In my classes or on retreats, we’ll practice 3 rounds of 1 minute each. It’s incredibly powerful, definitely changes your state of being and allows you to immediately release tension and come back to your place of inner peace. Here is a link to an instructional video.
Do the best you can in the beginning, this one takes practice. But I guarantee you’ll be able to deal with any kind of holiday stress, whether it comes from family, friends or outdoor malls! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! @teddymcdonald
Photo Credit: flickr.com/MaeChevrette