“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Anxiety and panic can arise at the most inconvenient and unconventional times. I have found myself on many occasions in the midst of an attack when I am all by myself, with no apparent trigger or intrusive thoughts but for some reason my body reacts.
It took some time and several entries in my journal marking down the environment, what I had been doing or thinking prior to the attack and compiling my symptoms to come to the realization that I had a warning sign every single time – my breath.
As I start to feel overwhelmed by thoughts or feelings, the first thing that changes in my body is the speed and depth of my breath. My breathing starts to become quick, shallow and uneven. My nervous system goes into overdrive and with each breath I escalate my fight or flight response. I needed an antidote that was quick, easy and available at all times – the key was breath.
Calming Mind and Breath
Learning to be conscious of my breath through both meditation and my yoga practice has been particularly beneficial to my anxiety disorder. Having the instinct to breathe slowly and evenly through my nose while engaging my diaphragm has improved my posture, lowered my blood pressure and significantly decreased my stress related pain points.
Whether you are trying to improve your health, or seeking a bit of zen, pausing several times a day to breathe deeply promoted relaxation, concentration and improved my mental clarity. Another positive result that I have noticed is, when I do my deep breathing throughout the day and then about 30 minutes before bed, I sleep much better. As someone who has struggled with insomnia for many years, this has been the most amazing side effect.
Deep Breathing Basics
Here are two easy exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine.
- Lie on your back, bend your knees toward the ceiling and keep your feet flat on the floor. Put a hardcover book on your abdomen (just under your belly button) and watch how the book rises and falls as you breathe deeply, slowly and evenly.
- Lie in your bed, with a pillow under your head and both hands resting on your stomach. Watch you belly rise and fall with each breath. Try inhaling for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts and then exhale completely for 5 counts. Repeat this 5 times or until you feel the tension in your body release.
If you prefer a little more guidance and flexiblity to do your breathing practice at any time, then try the OMM app…..