“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh
When we feel stressed and time crunched, our breath is typically very shallow and is focused in the upper chest area. Breathing this way decreases oxygen levels in our blood, our muscles tighten up, and thoughts can be very scattered, causing us to become anxious, go into a fight-flight mode, and rendering us less effective in dealing with challenges in the moment. Usually when we chest breathe we are forward focused, i.e. thinking about what projects are due and when, what errands we need to run after work, or what play dates need to be arranged for our children. etc. And, perhaps we feel overwhelmed or worried by the ‘what ifs’ we may tell ourselves. Mark Twain wisely wrote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Our personal power lies in the ‘now’ and in our breath. In the now we can observe what is happening around us and how we are feeling. We are better able to tap into our intuition, are more creative, and we can make empowering choices, which impact how we feel in the moment and what we do. When we bring our focus to breath and lengthen the inhalation and exhalation, we typically find that, with practice, in a matter of 15-20 seconds our body and mind begin to calm down.
Here is a practical exercise to do when stress gets the better of us and our breath is shallow:
Either sitting in a chair or lying down on a mat, scan the body to notice sensations and what is happening in the mind, without judging or analyzing – simply observe.
Consciously focus on breath.
Bring the tongue to the roof of the mouth, as it naturally forces the breath to slow down.
Ask the shoulders to relax, turn the palms face up, and in your mind say ‘inhale’ when inhaling, and ‘exhale’ when exhaling.
Breathe slowly, filling up the lungs and expanding the belly (not the chest).
Ensure the breath is equal in count, for example 5 counts on the inhale and 5 counts on the exhale.
Continue doing this for 30 secs to a minute.
Breathe naturally and take note of any changes in the body and mind.
If you are still feeling stressed, continue this exercise for another minute or so, or for as long as you need to. The body will gradually relax and the mind will be more poised.
Simply saying ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ on inhalations and exhalations keeps our mind busy and unable to sway away into a state of worry, or the “monkey mind”.
Consider practicing at least one to five minutes of deep breathing in the morning to begin the day in a state of calm, presence, and groundedness, and repeat as necessary throughout the day. A calm mind produces a more relaxed body.
This article was presented to OnRichmondhill.com by Sandra Corrado, CHRL, FIS, PTS, ZIN, SYNC
Sandra Corrado, the founder of Next Level Consulting, Sandra is an Integrative Wellness Coach, Sound Wellness Practitioner, Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer.
She started her personal fitness practice at age 11 and fell in love with the healing power of movement. Since 2005 she has been a leader in using movement to increase physical strength and flexibility as well as emotional and spiritual resiliency.
Since 2001 she has become an expert at helping women recover from burnout and life changing circumstances, discover their inner wisdom, and deliberately create a conscious way forward.
Next Level Consulting offers one-to-one and group coaching, as well as wellness-fitness sessions and personal training, sound wellness sessions and many other offerings, supporting the mind, body and spirit, and covering all 7 areas of life, as life fulfillment requires addressing every aspect of life.