Please Pass the Deep Breaths

November 20, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Lisa Sussman, Psy.D. contributes to topics such as Integrative Health and Medicine.

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist

We are in the midst of another busy holiday season.  Stop. Check in with yourself.

Are you feeling….content? Excited with anticipation? Stressed? Pulled in too many directions? Out of control with your eating or drinking? Tired and run down? Not connected to your loved ones? Reactive?

It’s ok to be experiencing a few of these feelings and others that
aren’t listed.  Acknowledge whatever it is you’re feeling with curious observation and without judgement.

Now, take 10-15 seconds to take a deep breath.  Start inhaling through your nose, allowing the air to fill your belly like a balloon, pause at the top, then slowly exhale through pursed lips, until the “balloon” is deflated.  Take another slow breath, tuning in to either how your nostrils and mouth feel while the air is entering and exiting, or what your belly feels like as the air is entering and exiting.

Take one or two more breaths like this, then allow yourself to return to a natural pace of breathing.

Check in with yourself again.  Notice your body, your thoughts, and your feelings.  Has anything shifted?  You may find a change in body temperature, feelings of warmth or a light tingle in your limbs.  Maybe there was a release, of tension in your shoulders, or jaw, or a slowing down of the thoughts in your head, or a lightening up in the intensity of your feelings.

Don’t underestimate the power of your breath to help turn on your body’s Relaxation Response, even under times of great stress and pressure.  You can become mindful of it at any moment, no matter where you are or what you are doing.  It’s free, always accessible, and by just intentionally focusing on it for a few rounds, you are breaking the negative cycle of stress, tension, and intense emotions. The more you practice it, the more easily your body will respond, and you will feel less reactive and more in control.

Tip: You can set your watch or phone alarm to go off every hour to signal that it’s time to take a mindful check-in and do a few rounds of deep breathing.

Best wishes for a joyful holiday season!

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