To say the last couple of years has been challenging is an understatement. We’re in unsettling territory, and the doom and gloom of the media predicting the unprecedented rise in living costs are enough to cause many of us to worry. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I see many of my clients experiencing increased tension and anxiety.
Recently a client asked for my advice on helping to curb her anxiety and keep calm.
‘Breathe,’ I replied.
After 15+ years of exploring the mind-body connection, I explained that the one tool I’ve found that helps to calm anxious thoughts and feelings is the most simple of them all - taking slow, deep breaths.
The moment you start to breathe deeply, right into the belly, it signals that you are safe and everything is okay. The HPA axis (that governs our stress response) sends out the order to stand down, to relax. But not only to relax but - vitally - to also repair. So, by deep breathing for a few minutes, you will not only start feeling a lot less shaky and jittery (from all the stress hormones revving you up) but also support your immune system.
Stop reading for a moment, and pay attention to how you are breathing.
What do you notice?
The vast majority of us have learned to breathe shallowly. If you were ever told to hold your tummy in as a child, you’re likely to do this out of habit. In fact, the habit will be so ingrained you will need to consciously stop and focus on your breathing several times a day, so deep breathing becomes your new habit!
If this is new to you, start by lying down to practice. Lie on your back with your hands gently resting on your belly. As you breathe in, let your belly inflate like a balloon. Your fingers should spread and rise as your belly rises. Breathe deeply and smoothly - there’s no need to force the breath or hold it. As you breathe out, your belly will subside.
Practice as often as possible, and if you have children, get them doing this as well. Make it a game. Who can puff their belly up the biggest? You will be teaching them a habit that will serve them for their entire lives.
Once you’ve got this under your belt, there’s a whole world of fancy breathwork you can try. In summer, I’m a fan of the yogic cooling breath. You are taught to curl your tongue into a tube and breathe slowly in and out through the tube - you’ll feel yourself cooling down in every way. If you can’t curl your tongue (like me, it’s a generic thing!), just breathe over your tongue, leaving a small opening in your mouth. It has the same effect.
You could also check out box breathing. Imagine your breathing as a square - inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four - it’s so powerful, the army teaches it.
Generally, though, I keep it simple. The moment I feel myself start to feel anxious or panicky, I have a quiet moment, close my eyes, and just breathe.
If you want to learn more, a good book is Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living by Jane Alexander.
Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.
Psst ... here are the ways you can work with me, in case you were wondering ... https://linktr.ee/waterlilytherapies