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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Kay

A shift has happened. Can you feel it?


A shift has happened. Can you feel it?


"There are never enough hours in the day!". Can you hear it?


Rushing. Juggling. Distraction. Do you see it?


Excitement, obligations, stress, and expectations. Like the click of the thermostat as the temperature drops, I felt my focus redirected to the Christmas season and all it involves. Did you feel it, too?


My ability to be present and aware has been hijacked. So I am left to ask myself: how do I reclaim what really matters? How do I tune into what is important and healthy for my mind, my body, and all of who I am, while the tempest swirls around me?


There are tools to bring awareness and focus. You have an aid that is inexpensive, non-time-consuming, yet it is something of immense value: Your breath.


Breathing happens involuntarily and we don't even have to think about it, so it can be easy to dismiss it's significance. It can be helpful to understand the extensive influence it has over your brain and emotions.


The part of your brain responsible for being on guard against danger is your amygdala. When you feel stressed this is the part that is in charge and keeps you ready either to freeze, to fight, or to flee from a hazardous situation. Your breathing quickens, your muscles contract, and your heart beats faster to keep you on alert. The part of your brain responsible for making thoughtful decisions and solving problems is the prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain is in charge when you are calm. By taking some slow breaths down into your belly you can effectively shift from feelings of stress to an experience of calm focus.


Your lungs take in oxygen from the air and remove extra carbon dioxide from your body. When you are worried you tend to breathe quickly and shallowly, which releases more carbon dioxide than is released when you are relaxed and breathing more slowly. When this happens you can begin to feel anxious. By intentionally slowing your breathing you can return to feeling calmer. Activating the peaceful (or parasympathetic) part of your nervous system allows your body to focus on repair and growth, which it can not do when it is stressed. As you can imagine, prolonged existence in stress is can cause serious and extensive damage to your body.


The idea of breathing well is nothing new, but unless we become aware of the quality of our breathing we risk missing out on the parasympathetic activation that our nervous system requires to repair and remain robust. Breathing can be a powerful source of sickness or it can be a dependable supporter of health.


A reminder I share for my own well-being and yours: when you find yourself overwhelmed by the excitement, obligations, stress, and expectations of the season, remember to tune into what is important and healthy for your mind, your body, and all of who you are. Slow down enough to breathe deeply, and with awareness invite the shift of calmness and focus to return.



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