Do you feel stressed beyond belief these days? You're not alone.
Day 2: Your Breath
How you breathe sets the standard for how your body works, from head to toe. Your breathing is intimately connected to everything from your heart rate and blood pressure to your cellular activity and brain function. It's a direct line to your thoughts, because it forms the foundation of your body's rhythms—which can be fast or slow, frenzied or calm, shallow or deep.
If you are well-practiced in meditation or yoga, you may have already learned to pay attention to your breath. But few of us have made it a regular practice. And even fewer of us have learned how to harness specific breathing techniques for anxiety reduction in our most severe moments of stress. Such techniques are a crucial tool for conquering anxiety.
Here are some key points to remember:
Inhales are best when they are through your nose. This increases the amount of oxygen that you are able to use, because the air is moistened and warmed as it passes through your nostrils.
Inhales should be deep and slow enough to fill your belly with air. (This is why "diaphragmatic breathing" is so helpful—it ensures that the air makes it all the way to the deepest recesses of your lungs.) Placing a hand on your belly and watching it rise can help you observe whether you are breathing deeply enough.
Exhales can be through your mouth but should also be slow. Try to pair an exhale with a mental reminder of what you are trying to let go of: worry, sadness, and anger are common examples.
So today's goal will be to notice your breath and to attempt to slow it down and deepen it. Think about the times when your breath may get shallow and fast without your realizing it, and what you can do to remind yourself to slow it down. You may also choose to focus on a saying that helps nudge you toward this practice. Anything from "I am slowing down my breath" to "Pause" to "Breathe in peace, breathe out anxiety" can be helpful if it resonates with you.
Try to catch yourself and notice your breathing in an average moment of your day. How is it? Is it shallow? Too fast? Is the air filling up your lungs fully?
Choose a time of your day to start focusing on your breathing as an automatic, natural practice. It could be when you brush your teeth in the morning, when you first lie down for bed, as a starting point. The more natural a time for you, the more the habit will stick.
Notice what happens to your thoughts, your heart rate, and your muscle tension as you slow down your breath. Can you tell a difference?
Do you know someone who would love our Guide to Overcoming Anxiety?