How to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Please welcome Todd Morena to the site. Todd dedicates his life to the enlightenment of individuals around the world, providing the knowledge and support to achieve an improved quality of life. As a motivational fitness expert, wellness coach, and motivational speaker, Todd is well versed in the personal and professional benefits of being and thinking healthy. He supports individuals, families and groups experiencing personal and professional transformations. His philosophy is that in order to be healthy, one must have the proper balance of body, mind, and spirit. Todd believes strongly in taking his clients through mind and body workouts. Todd will be writing a monthly family wellness column for and this introductory piece is perfect to help get you through the holiday season.

If you are like me, then you know it’s that time of year again when our stress levels rise because we are pulled in many directions, scheduling and going to holiday parties, shopping, worrying about finances, taking care of our family, etc. I’m sure like myself, being a father of four children, you, too may find it difficult to manage all of this. As a result, we tend to lose sight of how important it is to take care of ourselves.

Everyone knows that we must breathe to stay alive, yet we rarely think about breathing. We treat it like blinking our eyes, as if it is only an involuntary function. Under stress we tend to hold our breath for long periods of time. Breathing is the most important bodily function because it is our life force; all other bodily functions depend upon it. If we don’t take the time to recognize our breath-holding/shallow breathing patterns, it can have some major impacts on our body and mind including: anxiety, stress, depression, low energy, fatigue, neck/shoulder pain, panic attacks, poor digestion, and build up of toxins that could lead to inflammation and pain.

I know for myself, there are plenty of times when I may be reading, on the computer, or even driving in the car when I catch myself holding my breath for extended periods of time. It’s amazing I haven’t passed out yet. It’s at times like this when I try to focus on being aware of my breathing and practice what I teach.

It is especially important to remember to take that moment to focus on your breathing during the holidays, when you are shopping and dealing with the crowds and long lines. It will help decrease stress and calm you down during intense situations. Standing on line during holiday shopping season is the perfect time to practice your breathing.

And, don’t forget to share this with the children in your life as they, too, have stresses to deal with every day. There were times when one of my children would come home from school and say “Dad, I took a test today and was stressed but your breathing idea helped. I realized I was holding my breath a lot and once I started paying attention to my breathing, I relaxed and was able to think better and get through the test a little easier.”  So make sure to include little ones in this practice as well.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to become more aware of your own breathing:

  • Pay attention: Check in often and be conscious of your breathing pattern (Is it shallow or irregular?)
  • Is your body tense and/or are your shoulders up near your ears?
  • Are you holding your breath?

Once you’ve assessed your breathing pattern and body tension, here are some simple tips on how to breathe for stress reduction:

  • Inhale through your nose and mouth slowly for a count of 3-4 seconds
  • Hold that breath for a count of 3-4 seconds
  • Exhale that breathe through your nose and mouth for a count of 6-8 seconds
  • Continue this process 4-5 times for about a minute
  • Consciously breathe in filling your lungs and abdomen (if your chest is moving a lot you are breathing too shallow, it is your stomach that should be moving the most)
  • Visualize filling up with fresh, clean oxygen and exhaling away the stress and toxins

The more you are mindful and remember to practice this during times of stress, the better for your body. Beyond decreasing your stress levels, the benefits of breathing also include increased energy levels and metabolism, improvement in circulation (which can lead to lower blood pressure), increase in concentration and overall mental performance, and the elimination of toxins in your body (as oxygen helps feed the body for healing and revitalization).

The next time you are around friends and family take a look at how others are breathing or “not” breathing for that matter and if they look particularly stressed, share your newly learned breathing techniques with them.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season and remember, just breathe.



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