Holiday season can bring stress in spades. Crazy traffic, extra expenses, dealing with difficult loved ones – all can make the season less bright. For people who have prediabetes, more stress (along with holiday eating) can bring the unwelcome gift of higher blood sugar.
When we get extra stressed, our bodies get ready for “fight or flight” action by pumping out more of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol causes blood sugar to rise – not a good thing for those of us who already have higher blood sugar.
Guided Breathing for Holiday Stress
One easy way to lower stress – holiday and otherwise – is to learn and practice guided breathing. The technique was developed in 2015 by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained physician who specializes in mind-body medicine. It’s free and can be done in minutes.
Weil’s “4-7-8” breathing, which he based on an ancient yoga practice, can be done almost anywhere.
The basic idea:
1. Breathe in through nose, to a count of 4
2. Hold breath to a count of 7
3. Exhale through the mouth, to a count of 8 (it’s important that exhale is longer than inhale)
4. Repeat several times
Two Websites for Guided Breathing
The Cleveland Clinic provide clear instructions on 4-7-8 breathing on its website. Also, the free app IBreathe-Relax and Breathe, offers users an interactive website to practice 4-7-8 breathing in real time.
While guided breathing is simple to do, beginners may want to start the practice slowly. The Cleveland Clinic suggests doing three cycles of breathing two times a day. Anyone who has a special medical concern should check with their doctor before starting guided breathing; it’s possible to feel a little lightheaded at first.
My Personal Experience
I’ve recently started doing guided breathing. One morning this week, I felt harried and headachy. I did some cycles of guided breathing. I was amazed – this simple technique really did help me feel better.
During this busy holiday season, consider gifting yourself this stress-busting technique. It won’t have to be returned for a different size and will provide benefits year round.