The holiday season can be quite stressful, so unless you’re planning to pull a Witherspoon/Vaughn Four Christmases move and utterly bail, there are ways to participate AND not lose your mind!
You also don’t want to be the person taking deep breaths between courses and conversations. If Uncle Joe gets hip to the breathing technique you do every time he talks politics, it is inevitable that tensions will only escalate, cuz you’re doing that “woo-woo breathing thing” again. So, since you can’t do your deep breathing exercises or hide under the dinner table, what can you do surreptitiously that will mitigate your stress and anxiety?
Here are 6 simple techniques for calming your body and mind without anyone ever noticing.
1. Hand Reflexology—to reduce stress
The hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals are the three glands in the body that are responsible for producing, regulating, and sending stress hormones—namely cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline). These fight-or-flight hormones increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower immune system responses, and slow digestion. To calm the storm brewing within, press on these three reflexology points in your hands. The hypothalamus and pituitary are located at the center of the swirl on your fingerprints—yes, all ten fingers. Because these points are so closely situated within the fingertips, pressing on this one area will address both. Gently hold this point for five seconds. Once you’ve held all ten finger points, move your thumb down to the center of the mound on the palm below the thumb. This is your adrenal gland reflexology area. Since there are two adrenals, you will press on this point in both hands. Again, five seconds.
2. Universal Position—to calm and restore.
In Reiki, we place one hand on the heart and the other on the solar plexus. This position invites calm into your day. If you don’t feel comfortable placing your hands on these two areas in front of others, simply imagine that your hands are there. Doing this position in your mind’s eye is equally beneficial.
3. Silent Mantra—to remember to be our best self
Say to yourself, “no judging, no fixing, no controlling.” This mantra brings forth greater compassion for others and reminds us to elevate the way we relate to others. Further, we don’t like others to be critical of us, so we commit to not being critical of others.
4. Apan Vayu Mudra—to lessen anxiety
Place your pointer finger so that it touches the base of the thumb; next, touch the tips of the thumb, middle finger, and ring finger. The pinky will be outstretched tall. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Don’t forget to take a nice deep breath!
5. Shift Your Gaze Exercise—to allow frustrations to dissipate
I refer to this as the “Making Pickles Exercise.” I named it this because when you are in a pickle, you might as well make pickles—a sweet and delicious distraction! All you do is simply avert your gaze. Often, the reason why something feels dreadful is that we are unwittingly holding on to an old emotion that is linked to the first time we experienced a similar feeling. Perhaps, as a child, your mother belittled you and your beliefs, which left you feeling bitter and depressed. So, now when her comments imply that your beliefs are silly or childish, you spiral into anger or dejection.
Emotion can become stuck in our bodies: we get so upset that we continually repeat a phrase in our heads—perhaps what we’d like to say—and this reinforces the pain we’re experiencing, only ensuring that the suffering perpetuates. You may be aware that often when we are in an emotional pattern, we find ourselves fixating our eyes on something. We become stuck, literally and figuratively. To shift out of this pattern, simply look at something else, shift your body, get up, or move around. And, if at all possible, get distracted and literally do something else—like make pickles! This is why arguments in cars have such a difficult time dissipating. There is nowhere to look except at the road or out the window. It often isn’t until you get out of the vehicle that you can take a breath and release the tension. So, at the dinner table, instead of staring at your carrots in a blind fury, lift your gaze and notice something else in the room. Continue to look around at different objects or faces until your mind clears.
6. Shake It Out!—to calm down
Have you ever noticed how cats and dogs shake their bodies after they’ve been scared or fallen? They do this instinctively all the time. The shake itself acts like a calming mechanism. It expels excess energy and almost says to the brain, “let’s start again.” So, if animals do it, why not us? This one can’t be done at the dining room table, but when things get REALLY tense, sneak away to the bathroom and literally shake it out.
Try one, two, or all of these techniques. You may get a good laugh at yourself in doing them—which, by the way, is one of the best things you can do to release stress!
Wishing you abundant love, light, and laughter this holiday season.
Chantel C. Lucier, and her company, The AtHome Experience, are dedicated to educating and enlivening the individual towards greater connection to themselves, each other, and their community. By teaching people how to care for themselves at home, The AtHome Experience aims to empower people to create and sustain optimal health and well-being. By caring for ourselves and each other we construct and co-create a better future!