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Breathing Through the Holidays

Breathing Through the Holidays
courtesy photo

By Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. |

As we approach one of the biggest holidays of the year, a common mistake that individuals make is being overly consumed in the season of giving. Those individuals who are competitive athletes in school, endure loads of stress from balancing school life with sports life and let us not forget, athletes must maintain physical fitness during the holiday season, while on break, visiting family and friends. During this time, it is often overlooked that mental mindset should also be considered. Unfortunately, athletes and non-athletes are highly stressed during the holiday seasons and must work at understanding the importance of mental mindset, as it relates to one’s overall health and wellness.  

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Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S.

The best way to understand mindset is to identify what triggers it and how it allows one to perform. Mindset can be structured by beliefs, feelings, and experiences throughout life. Therefore, daily mindset can be thrown off when bouts of stress occur, like the holidays. All individuals have a mindset and when one’s mindset is strong, mental and physical performance has a successful outcome. Although it is known that stress can be brought on during the holiday seasons, the inability to tackle bouts of stress and anxiety can become a difficult and challenging process. Therefore, applying simple techniques like breathing exercises, can help reduce negative stressors and help individuals get back to a better mental and physical state.

Breathing for Anxiety: Before starting any breathing exercise, it is important to remember that you must first learn to calm yourself. Easing into the process will bring your heart rate down to resting, while allowing your lungs to properly intake oxygen while diffusing carbon dioxide and then exhaling it. In this process, you can either sit in a chair with a backrest or lie down. Next, make sure to erase your mind from any cluttered thoughts. Confirmation that you understand proper breathing begins with diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing), not chest breathing (shallow breathing). Make sure that your shoulders and chest muscles are relaxed, not tense. If you have high stress, close your eyes, and listen to calm sounds like the ocean, light wind, or white noise. Another great tip is to keep your eyes closed during the relaxation process and breathe in a small amount of peppermint or lavender oil.

To start, breathe in calmly through your nose (for a 4-6 second count), make sure to keep your mouth closed (if possible) and do not inhale too much air. If you are off count and inhaling too much air quickly, that is okay! Each time, work on slowing your breaths. This is not a competition, nor is anyone judging you. Once you get to the point where your entire body is relaxed, and you can slowly inhale air at the rate listed above then you are ready to proceed.

“Mental mindset it is the interdisciplinary science that fuels your ability to perform at optimal and maximal performance” – Cheryl McCormick

Next, exhale slowly at a steady rate, feeling your air leave your abdomen. During this process, you should not be focused on anything other than visualizing the air being released from your body.

When you begin to think about other things, your breathing pattern is thrown off, which makes it harder to follow deep breathing for a 4-6 second count. Shallow breathing typically occurs for a 2-4 second count and can become rapid.

Continue this process for 8-10 minutes. To become more efficient with this technique, practice daily by adding an extra minute each time, but never to go over 15 minutes (or else, you might fall asleep). Remember, the goal is to reduce your anxiety, stress, and better your mental mindset. You can also continue this process throughout the day, for shorter amounts of time (especially those of you who have busy work schedules). 

Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. the owner and founder of Gravitational Performance School of Sports Science, is also a doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy. Her former years as an athlete has guided her interests into education in sports and passion for research as a sports scientist, content developer, educator, and sport science consultant- working in sports medicine, sports nutrition, and sports psychology. She can be reached at gravitationalperformance@gmail.com.


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