Pay attention to your breathing
Have you experienced the following? You’re standing in the supermarket and you have the feeling of being from a different planet. You’re surrounded by thousands of products in hundreds of shelves and a swirling mass of stressed people all with shopping lists in their hands; a disembodied voice over the loudspeaker is extolling the latest bargains, and the whole thing is overlaid by calming background music aimed at inducing you to buy. Later, back at home, you come back to your senses to find that you have bought things but not what you had planned.
We experience stress when we have the feeling that the external stimuli to which we are exposed (demands) overwhelm our capacity to deal with them. We become anxious and irritable. This can manifest itself through an increased pulse rate, heart palpitations, difficulty in concentrating, or rapid flat breathing. Our autonomous nervous system is responsible for these symptoms. It carries out autonomous functions over which we have no direct influence. Conscious abdominal breathing is one of the few ways of influencing the autonomous nervous system, and thus one possibility of relieving stress. Moreover, we can change our breathing without drawing attention; after all, practicing tai chi in the supermarket would certainly cause a stir.
So what should you do?
- Breathing in: if possible, place one hand on your stomach close to your navel. First breathe out. When you then breathe in, your stomach lifts and as a result your diaphragm sinks and the lower pulmonary lobes fill with air. This causes your hand to rise.
- Breathing out: when you breathe out, your diaphragm returns to its dome-shaped position. Your stomach becomes flat and your hand returns to its original position.
- Note: don’t influence your breathing with your mind, just observe your natural rhythm. Breathe as quickly or slowly as is most comfortable for you.
Drink lots of water
From the world of sport we already know that if our water balance falls by just 2%, our performance capability drops by 20%. That also applies to our everyday capabilities. An adequate water intake is especially important during the Christmas holidays. We tend to enjoy more alcohol at this time of the year: a glass of wine with the boss, a cocktail with colleagues, or a single-malt whisky at home with the family. But as an alternative to alcohol sweetened drinks with thousands of additives are not much better.
Pure water is a part of all bio-chemical processes and facilitates the excretion of toxic substances. So drinking water at Christmas time is essential. Even a person who does no physical exercise or sport should drink at least two liters of pure water per day. The best way to ensure this is to keep a jug of water on your desk and dining table as well as a small bottle in your car or bag. The bottles not only provide you with water, they remind you to drink.
Eat a balanced diet
Unconscious physical processes consume much less energy than conscious ones. Whereas much is routine during our everyday working life, at Christmas time our cognitive processes are much more active. Questions such as what gifts do I buy for so and so? Which party should I go to? Is it already too late to plan winter sport holidays? Where should we spend New Year’s Eve? What food should we serve at Christmas? consume a lot of energy. Besides oxygen and water, sugar is particularly important for supplying us with energy.
However in this case normal sugar is not what is meant but rather glycogen, which the body can convert and store. In fact, sugary foods can have a destabilizing effect on blood sugar and so-called light products have a yo-yo effect and induce hunger again.
Enjoy the festive food whole-heartedly! The most important factor for your health is what you eat every day and not what you enjoy on special occasions. To ensure that you have adequate energy levels during the day eat products that help to stabilize your blood sugar level such as:
- Salads and fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Chocolate with a high cocoa content (at least 60%)
- Whole grain products, whole grain rice
- Dairy products without sugar additives
Exercise in the fresh air
Imagine how your grandfather’s grandfather celebrated Christmas. He almost certainly did not bring the Christmas tree home in his car because cars only became affordable for ordinary people sometime in the 1920s (after Henry Ford had introduced assembly line production). He may well even have hunted his Christmas dinner himself and not simply bought it in a supermarket. Or to cut a long story short: your ancestor burned up the calories from the festive food in procuring and preparing it. Furthermore, he spent a lot more time in the fresh air, and as we know, oxygen is one of the most important components of our physical energy supply.
We recommend therefore that you take some exercise every day during the Christmas holiday:
- How?: jogging, running, hiking, walking, skiing, snowboarding etc. (always in the fresh air)
- How long?: at least 45 minutes without pause
- How intensive?: moderate, i.e. immediately after exercising you should be able to do other things such as packing gifts or playing with children
- Tip: it is better to exercise before enjoying a festive meal and not immediately afterwards.
We at the Liechtenstein Academy Foundation wish you a joyous holiday period and a happy new year! We look forward to stay in contact also in 2017.