A few days ago I wrote 5 Steps to BEing Calm. In it I emphasized the importance of practicing meditation as a method for stress reduction. Meditation is simply being still for a period of time while focusing on one’s breath. What is the point of that? Isn’t breathing kind of . . . normal?
What if I forget to breathe?
I remember a time my elderly father asked me, “Deb, what happens if a person forgets to breathe?” We both laughed at the silliness of the question and I teased him saying he needn’t worry because he would pass out and begin to breath again, if he forgot. As I think back on those days when Dad lived with me, he worried a lot. He worried about dying, about having his daughter care for him, about being a burden. Apparently, he even worried about breathing.
Breathing: It’s good for our health
Worry is something I’m familiar with. I often say I come from a long line of worriers. The thing about habitual worriers is we aren’t consciously aware of our breathing. We are breathing, of course, but we are not doing the best job of it. I am certain my dad would catch himself either holding his breath or taking shallow quick breaths, perhaps to the point of an anxiety attack, like so many others, including me. Which is probably why he came to me to ask the question about breathing.
So what’s the big deal about breathing? Aren’t we all doing it all the time? We are. However, it’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves if we start paying attention to things like our breath.
3 breathing techniques to ‘weather the storm’:
- Awareness: Pay attention to your breath throughout the day. Is your breathing generally shallow? Fast or slow? Of course this will depend on activity level. Becoming aware of how we breath in various circumstances is the very first step. Think about your breathing throughout the day.
- Deep Breathing Exercise: Sit down in a comfortable position (commit to 5 minutes). Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it through your mouth with a sigh. Inhale slowly, feeling the breath go in through the nostrils and follow it into your chest, belly, or deeper. Now slowly exhale through the nose, completely and fully, emptying your lungs. Repeat, slowly inhaling deeper, if possible, pause, then exhale slowly and deeply. Pause briefly before inhaling again. Now breath normally, however it feels natural to you. How do you feel? Tense? Nervous? Calm? Silly? There’s no right answer, this is about how you being aware of how you feel.
- Counting Breath Exercise: Find a comfortable place to sit quietly (commit to 5 minutes). Close your eyes if you wish. Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it with an open mouth audible sigh. Now do it again. Close your eyes and breathe normally – inhale, exhale, however it feels natural to you for a few breaths. gradually inhale through the nose deeper, feel the breath entering the nostrils, flowing into the throat and deeper, into your belly if that feels comfortable. Exhale slowly and purposely through the nose. Next inhale while counting 1, 2, 3, pause. Exhale for a count of 3. Continue this for five or six additional breaths. Then allow yourself to breath normally and evaluate how you feel.
These techniques are simple and easy. While breathing is something we all do all the time, without thinking, I believe if we put some thought and focus into practicing and paying attention, it can help us to weather any storm life deals us.
May we all breathe easier – with practice.