Calm Down In 5 Minutes Or Less
It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is suddenly upon us. Combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time, it seems that there are fewer hours in the day, and that feeling will likely grow as the rush of the holidays sets in.
Rather than becoming overwhelmed, we checked in with experts about how to find calm in the midst of the holiday season.
“Things may be especially stressful this year for some people due to supply-chain issues and the pandemic,” says personal development and career coach Katie Sandler. “It’s especially important this time of the year to keep stress under control so that you can enjoy the holiday season and go into the new year feeling refreshed.”
Sandler advises that one way to keep stress under control is making time to rest.
“Holidays can be a busy time that leaves some people feeling drained,” says Sandler. “Try to minimize this by making lists, planning things out, and always scheduling downtime.
“It’s important to have dedicated time for relaxing, unwinding, and recharging, especially at this time of the year,” she adds.
For tips on the latter, we checked in with Erin Wheeler, co-owner and creative director of Lucky Cat Yoga in Tampa, Florida. Erin has been teaching yoga and meditation to children and adults for 15 years, and she herself has been practicing for 18.
"It’s important to have dedicated time for relaxing, unwinding, and recharging, especially at this time of the year."
“The art of meditation gives us tools to combat sleeplessness, digestive irregularities, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and mental afflictions,” she says.
Here, Wheeler shares a five-minute meditation practice — what she calls an “Ahhhh” Breath Meditation — that can be done anytime and anywhere. Before you begin, set a timer for five minutes.
• Sitting comfortably or lying down, find a position where you can feel safe and relaxed. Erin has taught this meditation to everyone from young children to adults in their 90s sitting in chairs.
• Close your eyes.
• Begin to guide your mind towards the natural rhythm of the breath.
• Notice when your mind wants to wander away. This is normal. We are not our thoughts. When your mind gets distracted, focus again on your breath.
• Begin to inhale in through the nose or mouth until you can't fill your lungs anymore.
• Then exhale out the mouth with an "ahhh" sound. It sounds like a sweet sigh. Do this three to four times.
• Breathe naturally.
• Keep your mind on the rhythm of the natural breath for one minute.
• Repeat the controlled inhale and exhale "ahhh" another three to four rounds until your five-minute timer gently chimes.
“By controlling the breath, you automatically begin to bring yourself into the parasympathetic nervous system,” Wheeler says. “Controlling the breath — called pranayama: prana = life, yama = control — helps move you away from your anxious self, drowning in the sympathetic nervous system.
“This is the most accessible of breath work that all women can learn,” she adds. “It takes five minutes a day, and you should try to make time every day at the same time. Early morning is best, but do it when you can.”
Christy Woodrow, a breath work coach and travel blogger based in San Diego, agrees. She suggests meditating first thing in the morning, “before you reach for your phone or even get out of bed.”
Then, throughout the day, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, Christy advises to take two or three minutes to breathe in for four counts and breathe out for eight counts.
“You can do this with a mantra or while saying positive things to yourself,” she says. “Even this short amount of breath work helps to reset your nervous system.”
Taking some time for yourself this holiday season, even if it’s just five minutes, can bring a sense of calm so that you can truly enjoy what this time of year is really about — cherished time with family and friends.