Breathing… It’s easy, right? We all do it, thousands and thousands of breaths each day to keep us alive. But wait! HOW do you breath? I can feel the eye rolls from here – “seriously, I got this far in life without knowing how to breath…?”
I get it, but bear with me.
So many of us have stress in our lives, and stress affects each of us differently – what could be just a small thing for one person can feel like the end of the world for someone else. There’s no right or wrong, you feel things how you feel them. Our daily lives throw stressors at us from all angles, seemingly from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until the moment we close them again at night.
Just imagine this scenario: Your alarm goes off but you’re not quite ready to get up yet, so you hit snooze. Only in your half-awake state you turned the alarm off and before you know it 10 more minutes has become 30 more minutes. You leap out of bed in panic, you’re going to be late! You have a quick shower and try to brush your teeth and get dressed at the same time. You run down stairs and put the kettle on, no matter what you can’t leave the house without coffee. You’re sorting out what you need for work, and where are your car keys?? You glance at your phone, you see messages from friends, your assistant has messaged to say she’s sick, and your calendar reminds me you have an important team meeting about a new project first thing. And you’re late! You pour the coffee into your mug, splash milk on the kitchen counter, leave it and run out the door. Your journey is going well, then you hit traffic 5 minutes from the office. It takes you 15 minutes to get there and another 5 to find a parking space. You run straight to the conference room and arrive hot and flustered to find the meeting already started.
How did you feel reading that? Were you nodding in recognition, we’ve all had mornings like that? Did you notice your breathing? Most likely not, after all how much attention do we give it really?
Stressors like those mentioned above are, individually, small things, but added together and prolonged over a period of an hour or so they can really set the tone for your day and cause some disruptive reactions in your body and mind. Cortisol and blood pressure can rise, your heart rate quickens, anxiety levels rise and breathing becomes shallower. These are all normal reactions when we encounter stress, our body prepares us for fight or flight. Years ago the cause of our stress would last for a short period of time while we dealt with the situation. Today, we deal with one little situation after the other; and as you likely know once this meeting is over that won’t be the end of your stress for the day. And you’re probably still beating yourself up for being disorganised, lazy, missing the start of the meeting, etc.
This is where the problems start – we are constantly in and out of flight or fight mode, running on adrenaline and cortisol, feeling anxious and on edge which in turn can lead to us having a bad mood, making snap decisions under pressure, grabbing sugary/salty snacks as we eat at our desk to make up for being late… But taking a few moments each day to breath consciously can make a huge difference to how we feel. So how do we do this?
Well, the good news is you can do this from your bed! But for now, let’s just practice so you get used to how it feels to breath deeply and exhale fully. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Breath normally and notice what hand moves first. If the hand on your chest moves first, slow your breath and breath deeper, imagining you are filling your belly with air. You should start to feel the hand on your belly move first. When you exhale, do it slowly and imagine pushing all of the air back out of your belly and lungs. Do this a couple of times until it starts to feel more natural.
Now get yourself comfortable. As I mentioned, it’s good to do this in bed – first thing when you wake up, and just before you go to sleep. But, of course, you can do it at any time during the day if you feel stressed.
Take a slow, deep breath in for a count of four. Pause for a count of four. Exhale slowly and deeply expelling all the air. Pause for a count of four and repeat 6-8 times.
And that’s it. It’s relaxing, it calms and quietens your mind and helps get oxygen flowing around your body. Best of all, you don’t need any special equipment, you don’t need to join a class or pay for lessons and you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Give it a try and let me know if it helps you feel less stressed.