4 Ways to Handle Holiday Triggers and Reset Your Emotional Equilibrium

Special celebrations in the fall and winter are meant to be a time of connection and relaxation, a chance to slow down as the seasons change and the days grow shorter. But for many of us, these holidays can become a source of stress.

Between travel, family visits, rich food, little sleep, and overbooking ourselves, we may lose our physical and emotional equilibrium and find ourselves easily triggered and overwhelmed.  

Here are four simple activities you can use — wherever you are — to reset your body’s equilibrium and find your emotional center.

1. Finger Breathing

This exercise will have you take 36 slow breaths. Begin by holding your right thumb in your left hand. Breathe in and out deeply three times. Don’t force your breath; simply allow your lungs to fill up and empty themselves. Switch to holding your left thumb in your right hand, and breathe in and out deeply three times. Continue with three breaths for every finger, alternating hands.

When you have moved through all of your fingers on both hands, interlock your hands with your right thumb on top and take three breaths. Switch and interlock your hands with your left thumb on top.  Notice how your breathing slows and becomes deeper. You should also notice your mind relaxing and letting go of stressful thoughts. You can use finger breathing to give yourself space around a triggering situation, or even to refresh and re-energize yourself on a long car or plane journey.

2. Arm Swing

Stand with your weight evenly distributed between both feet. Tuck your tailbone and allow your posture to naturally straighten. Drop your shoulders and swing your arms back 20 to 25 degrees past the line of your body. Let them swing forward and then back again, carried by momentum. Continue for a few minutes, making sure to keep your shoulders dropped, not tensed. Notice your circulation flow increase and your energy return. This is a particularly good reset after a long time sitting — on a plane or in a car. (Click here to see Reflecting Together partner Nisa King demonstrate the arm swing technique.)

3. Cross-Crawl

Connecting the two hemispheres of your brain helps relax the central nervous system and acts like a reset button. Start by sitting on a chair. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Extend your arms, crossing your left wrist over your right. Bring your palms together and interlace your fingers. Bring your hands up toward your chin. Sit quietly for a minute with your eyes closed while you breathe gently and slowly. Repeat on the other side. Notice yourself feel emotionally centered and grounded.

This simple technique can be done anywhere, even on an airplane, or if you are a passenger in a car. Crossing the center line, or meridian, of your body activates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain and stimulates sensory integration. This is a particularly effective exercise to calm overstimulated senses. If you are in crowded stores or a chaotic kitchen, doing this pose for a few minutes is very restorative! 

4. Pause and Set an Intention

When you feel caught up in a drama, an uncomfortable interaction, or a triggering situation, find a way to pause. If you are among other people, you might excuse yourself and head to the restroom. If you are alone, you might close your eyes briefly or simply take a few deep breaths. Once you have hit the “pause” button, ask yourself, “What do I want to have happen?” Notice how this creates space for a better outcome than the one you may be assuming will arise. You may be surprised to hear yourself come up with a positive solution to your current situation.

If you were triggered by food, you might set an intention like this: “I want to choose the two desserts that look most enticing to me and slowly savor each bite of them.” If the trigger is a person, make sure you choose something that you can control. Don’t select, “I’ll get my brother to see my point of view.” Instead, think of what you have the power to make happen, such as, “If my brother brings up politics, I will ask him how work is going, or I will move to a different conversation.” Finding out what you want in the moment is the best defense against being caught up in a pattern or habit that does not serve you.

Take Time to Enjoy

Whether you are at the effect of too little sleep or too much visiting, finding your physical balance will help reestablish your emotional equilibrium. With these simple strategies you will find yourself more grounded, more relaxed, and, most importantly, more able to experience the joys of the moment!