As cheery as the holidays are supposed to be, they can actually be extremely stressful. Just trying to travel home can be a tricky situation with the rise in new COVID cases and overall, this past month has added to the usual stress that getting it all done before hoping to get away can bring. In order to reduce stress and boost your immunity, it helps to stick to your morning routine, and even add a few new stress-relieving rituals to help you breathe deeply, stay calm and increase focus (to get through the work at hand).

We compiled the three best morning rituals that will help your body launch into your day feeling stronger, more resilient, and able to better handle stress, according to several studies. These at-home techniques take less than five minutes each to do and can be practiced on a daily basis for best results. With these three simple morning rituals, you can boost your immunity and enjoy a healthier, less stressful holiday.

1. Try Box Breathing to Reduce Stress

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to breathe deeply. A breathing technique called 'box breathing' has been proven to lower stress in the body, working to hit "reset" on negative emotions, according to one study. Box breathing, or square breathing, consists of a deep inhale, a hold, a deep exhale, and another pause before repeating the process.

Box breathing is a method used by many professional athletes including champion big-wave surfer, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Laird Superfood, Laird Hamilton. One of the fittest people on the planet, Hamilton explained to The Beet that heuses box breathing to boost his physical and mental performance, allowing him to get more oxygen into his body, and exhale carbon dioxide. The pro-athlete explained that when done right, box breathing exercises can help boost calorie burning by elevating the body's rate of exchanging oxygen for carbon.

"What happens when you run or bike? You break carbon bonds. Through breathing, you break carbon bonds," Hamilton explains. "You lose weight through breathing. Bikers, runners, they all break carbon bonds. It is all done with breathing. It's not the pedaling [alone], but the breathing that forces that to happen. You lose weight in your breath."

How to Box Breathe

  • Inhale through your nose while counting to four, filling your lungs with air.
  • Hold your breath also while counting to four seconds.
  • Then exhale slowly for longer than four seconds (your exhale should be longer than your inhale to completely empty lungs).
  • Hold breath again with air out of lungs and keep lungs empty for four seconds.
  • Repeat.

Do box breathing in the morning and it will help you stress less all day.

2. When in Doubt, Stretch it Out

When your muscles get tense and your body undergoes stress, another ritual that will help to reduce the knots and kinks is to practice active stretching, which is similar to practicing yoga, since it's an intentional series of poses that will get your body moving and your circulation to the muscles.

Several studies have shown that active stretching improves posture and reduces joint pain, increases your range of motion, and helps increase blood flow – which in turn improves your overall blood circulation and gets rid of stiffness. Doing these every morning may even help prevent certain strokes caused by blood clots, according to the study.

All of the health benefits of stretching help the body stay strong both physically and mentally, boost immunity and fight off infection. When your body's circulation is healthy, your blood cells transport vital oxygen and nutrients to every part of the body (and pick up and take away waste from your cells). When you stretch your muscles, you boost circulation and lower your body's stress levels – which can ultimately weaken your immune system, making you more prone to diseases, infections, and other illnesses.

3. Drink Matcha Tea to Help Stay Calm

Matcha is one of the most powerful teas made from pulverized green tea leaves high in antioxidants and polyphenols such as EGCG. Matcha is the tea highest in this powerful plant compound that helps boost immunity, fight diseases and help the body neutralize free radicals and oxidative stress, which ages us on a cellular level. For an easy ritual to help reduce stress, even just sitting at your desk, drink matcha tea (but skip the additives that often have sugar and fat). Along with helping fight off physical ailments, matcha has been linked to helping boost mood, alertness, focus, relaxation, and calmness.

Matcha has a natural stress-reducing effect because it contains a combination of caffeine and L-theanine, which is a natural amino acid found in plants that helps promote relaxation without creating drowsiness, according to one study. In addition, L-theanine has been proven to improve relaxation, tension, and calmness, researchers have found.

One matcha powder we love is Laird Superfood's Matcha Instafuelw which is also a good source of calcium to help build strong bones, and iron to boost energy, as well as vitamin C to boost immunity. In addition, the blend naturally contains MCT oils from coconut milk, which can improve brain health and focus and adds a rich, buttery flavor to the matcha.

Bottom Line: To Take Care of Yourself this Holiday, Practice Morning Rituals

To be calm, reduce stress, and help your immune system fight off infection, practice self-care rituals that will get your day started right. Three easy tricks to boost your immunity and promote calm are to add Box Breathing to your morning routine, as well as Active Stretching and drinking Matcha Tea.

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