How am I going to handle the stress of this holiday season? Better yet, I think a better question to ask would be: how do I handle stress at any particular time of the year? How do I keep a balance in my life? What relaxation techniques do I know to help to settle my mind down with? Do I ask for help?
Lately, I have been discussing the concept of what meditation or relaxation is with my patients. I like to start out with a typical humorous Long Island phrase, “Let’s go sit down, relax and have a cup of coffee.” Nothing like having a stimulant to calm oneself down.
So, what does it take to calm down a “racing mind”? I like to think of relaxation and meditation as one. Relaxation or meditation can be as simple as walking in the park, riding a bike, coloring, reading a book or favorite magazine, listening to music, taking a drive out in the country, telling a joke, dancing, singing, going to a yoga class, watching a good movie, cooking a good meal, entertaining guests, listening to sports radio or receiving a massage.
Focusing on the breath and breathing through the nose is the first thing I have patients do who want to learn how to calm themselves down. Slow, deliberate intentional breathing is the technique or “tool” I have patients use to achieve a relaxed state quickly.
The simplest technique to relaxation is to just focus on breathing through the nose for a few breaths. This will instantly distract the thoughts from its fast-paced pattern. I guide my patients with a simple count of two for a breath in, a count of two to hold the breath and a count of two to release the breath. If the person can breathe longer counts then I encourage it. This technique will break any thought pattern you may have instantly.
Sometimes just breaking a thought pattern for a few minutes will help calm a distressing moment down. What’s nice is that there is no long ritual to calming oneself down. Just practicing” breath consciousness” a moment or two every day will help keep your stress level down. Practicing the “Art of Relaxation” every day for a few moments can be a life saver when stressful situations arise, especially around the holiday season.
Happy holiday season to all my fast-paced Long Island patients, readers and friends. •