There is no question that the Holiday season can add stress to our already stressful lives. Unmanaged stress is the number one overall health problem in the US according to the CDC, NIH and other health organizations. They say it drives 75 to 90 percent of our doctor visits. Perhaps instead of making resolutions for the New Year, you should consider addressing your stress levels and making stress relief a priority for 2020.

While experiencing the right or good kind of stress is proven to be beneficial, the other side of the stress coin is that harmful stress makes you less effective, unhealthy and unhappy. Being all stressed out at home or in the workplace has the power to not only bring you down but the rest of your family or team as well. When you’re all stressed up and that stress has nowhere to go, it trickles down to the people around you, like your coworkers and your family members.

The problem is that we can’t get rid of stress if we are to live a life that has meaning, value and/or purpose. The things that we find valuable and give us joy can also cause us great stress. If you have children or were a child, you know what I mean. If we can’t escape stress or get rid of it, our only real option is to get good at stress. Getting good at shutting off and mitigating the damaging effects of stress and learning to transform harmful stress into helpful stress. Although there is not enough room to accomplish all that in this blog, I can recommend a single, simple and significant practice that can help shut off a stress response almost instantly and help mitigate the harmful effects of stress. The good news is everybody already knows how to do this exercise. It called 40/60 deep breathing. The idea is to take in three deep breathes inhaling to the count of “4” and exhaling to the count of “6”. Fill your lungs full on the inhale and empty your lungs completely on the exhale. Do at least three breaths or as many as needed to bring about a calmer more relaxed and less stressed state.

This simple breathing exercise is also used as a preventative program when done multiple times per day, to proactively counter the effects of harmful stress. Many people find it effective to set their smartphones or watches to ring or vibrate at regular intervals as a reminder to do the breathing exercise. I use a program on my phone called “Mindfulness Bell”. I set it to go ding randomly 2 times per hour from 9:00 o’clock AM to 9:00 o’clock PM. That gives me 24 little reminders to do the breathing exercise of which I will only do about 6 or 7 times during the day. Give it a try. You will find that it will make a noticeable difference by the end of two weeks.

If you turn this strategy into a habit by practicing it when you are stressed as well as a few times a day and you’ll find yourself less stressed, healthier and happier in 2020.