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Pause to Breathe

Is the secret to wellbeing learning how to breathe correctly?

Well, we are almost halfway through lockdown, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm trying to keep up with a few online courses that are moving at such a pace my head is spinning. I've started my Christmas shopping, plus, Oliver Twist is really, really long book, and I promised myself I'd finish it for book club on Saturday - I'm only 70% of the way through and have another 3 hrs 47 mins left to read, eeek.

If we are continually overcommitting and adding more onto our to-do list, we're not leaving any room for ourselves - which will lead to burn out, overwhelm, stress, and anxiety.

From smartphone notifications to endless emails, we are constantly faced with endless distractions and commitments. The pace of modern life, with its daily stresses and strains, has caused our breathing to act as if we are always overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.

When the body's stress hormones kick in – your heartbeat quickens, you may start breathing faster, and your entire body can feel tense. However, learning to breathe correctly again, can reverse this process and bring the mind and body back to its natural balance. So, this week, let's hit the pause button and give ourselves time to exhale.

You may not be aware, but your breath is the greatest asset you have, It helps you to feel whole and in complete control of your life, while still grounding you in the present moment. It can be a great focus and is used in many meditation techniques. The art of the breath sparks a sense of wonder and curiosity – the foundations of a happier and more meaningful life, and often allows us to accept ourselves with a kind and loving attitude.

Physically, breathing relies on the powerful muscles of the diaphragm, the abdomen and the intercostal muscles between the ribs. Smaller secondary muscles help this process in the neck, shoulders and upper ribs. But if your breathing is out of sync, your abdomen tenses. This tension causes the secondary muscles to take on all the work.

But be careful. These secondary muscles are only designed to take on 20% of the burden, so they can quickly become stressed. If this continues, it can lead to chronic tension in the shoulders and neck, often causing headaches, fatigue and shallow breathing.

To help manage stress and tackle anxiety, you could try practising relaxation techniques such as box breathing, also known as square breathing. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.

This easy breathing technique can be beneficial to anyone, especially those who want to reduce stress.

Try it for yourself

If you are feeling overwhelmed by this lockdown, or simply need to press pause, here is a five-minute breathing technique to get you started.

Try to be in a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing. Make sure that you're seated upright in a comfortable position. I like to sit in the easy yoga pose, Sukhasana, but you can also sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.

Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. Sitting up straight helps you to take deep breaths.

Take a moment to notice how you are breathing. Breathe through your nose, and use your diaphragm to breath deep and open up the chest. Once you've done this for a couple of time, start adding a count.

Inhale slowly and deeply to the count of four, feel the air fill your lungs, and your chest expand. Hold your breath for another slow count of four. Exhale for another four counts, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs, and feeling the air leaving your body. Hold your breath again. Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.

We can't escape the modern world and its stresses, but we can all learn to control our breathing and reconnect our minds and bodies with the power of simple breathwork.

So, this week, I will remember to Breathe.

I will not let worry control me.

I will simply breathe, and it will all be ok.

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