Do you ever think about your breath?
If you don’t, I want you to take a second and focus on it.
Close your eyes and pay attention to what it feels like to breathe in and out for 10 seconds.
Notice what the air feels like as it enters your nose.
Pay attention to it as it expands your lungs and pushes out your stomach and causes your chest to rise.
Slow it down and feel the expansion and contraction as you breathe in deeply, and exhale completely.
Increased breathing is a part of our fight or flight response.
As our breathing becomes more rapid with anxiety, fear, or stress, it increases the oxygen level in our bloodstream so we are better prepared to bolt.
At the same time, this throws off the balance of chemicals in our body and changes other functions-heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure.
Once upon a time, this response would be triggered by physical danger, and was therefore useful and essential for our survival as early humans.
But now, although we are no longer facing physical danger at every turn, our fight or flight response is still being triggered reactively.
Our brain interprets even unpleasant emotion as dangerous and threatening.
The anxiety over what other people might think of us, the fear of rejection, the stress of trying something new or making a change in our lives-all of these feelings translate as threats to our safety according to our brain.
And we feel the physical response in our bodies.
I work with my clients to understand the mental and emotional piece of this process and learn how to affect, manage, and change it.
It’s a skill that takes practice and consciousness.
But it can start with our breath.
Next time you are feeling this response triggered, or feeling any unpleasant emotion like overwhelm, stress, anxiety, fear, or the like, try pausing for a few seconds to take 3 to 5 slow, deep breaths.
Breathing won’t eliminate the emotions, but it can give you a chance to take a beat, reconnect to the present moment, and be more conscious of the way you want to react.
Think about a situation where one of your children disobeys you and what would happen if before reacting, you took 3 deep breaths?
Imagine you realize that you forgot to do something important for work and as you feel the anxiety or embarrassment rise, you take 3 deep breaths?
Picture a time where you feel bored or restless or inadequate and head to the pantry to find some chocolate to eat, even though it’s not on your plan.
If you were to stop and take 3 deep breaths before opening the pantry door, what would happen next?
Deep breathing is not the quick fix to all of your problems, but it is a tool that can help you find some connection to your consciousness.
And conscious awareness of our thoughts, feelings and actions, is the beginning of real change.
It truly all begins with our thoughts.