It’s that in-between week after the hump of Christmas, sliding down through Boxing Day to the day after Boxing Day and hurtling up to the New Year. Liminal space. I think it was Ayanna Lloyd Banwo who called it "In-Betwixtmas." Time and schedules are loopier than whatever passes for usual in this unusual (to say the very least) year. As if this year's setting aside of our carefully curated collections of skinny denim for stretchier comfier bottoms isn’t a bridge far enough. Acceptable wardrobe choices include matching pyjamas. Overdressed, is loungewear. Breakfast, maybe? And lunch and dinner times are all over the place.
This week people known and or related to us might think that there’s no need for fair warning of a visit. Also since “they’re family” they might be bewildered/taken aback/deeply offended that they too must observe the protocols of the house. What is tradition need not necessarily apply in the times of Corona. Yes, you’ve known me since I was yea high. Yes, you need to wear your mask, on nose and mouth, throughout. I don’t know where your lungs have been.
Depending on the state of your system, (nervous, family) the familiarity of your surroundings and your schedules, you might be feeling any and all of excitement, anticipation, dread or terror. The fastest, surest way to reset is the Physiological Sigh.
To use a driving analogy - if you were motoring on the autobahn, the Physiological Sigh is the equivalent of taking your foot off the gas, pressing the brake and gearing down. Its been thoroughly researched in the West since the 1930s and has been shown to be effective at moving the body from sympathetic activation (hyperarousal fight, flight response) into a more parasympathetic, ventral vagal, regulated state.
The physiological sigh is the “hitching breath” of a toddler calming down from a really hard cry. Some people also automatically do this pattern in claustrophobic situations. The pattern is - two inhales and one long exhale.
The Physiological Sigh
Inhale through the nose.
Inhale through the nose.
Exhale. Sigh out through the mouth.
Slowly and gently.
Repeat for a few breaths.
Then breathe through the nose - in, in and out.
The second inhale inflates the small sacs that might tend to be under-inflated in stressed states and the long exhale offloads carbon dioxide. Increased inflation of the alveoli, slowed breathing rate, increased carbon dioxide removal, slowed heart rate - individually and collectively signalling to your nervous system “all good here, nothing to see, keep it mellow, no sympathetic response required.” It's easy, fast and effective and unobtrusive to do even exhaling through the mouth, because - masks.
May your breathing be easy.
May your protocols be observed,
Your visits and visitors be welcomed.
May all clothes be comfy,
And may the new year bring goodness to make you gasp with delight.
Happy, Healthy In-Betwixtmas.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.