Last weekend, I experienced something new. It was overwhelming and both a physical and mental storm. I experienced an anxiety attack.
To me, it sounds silly because in the scheme of things, what I was anxious about did not warrant my reaction. If I think about the times or events in my life that should have been more likely to produce such a severe reaction – this past weekend should not have featured even for a second.
My 13-year-old daughter, had her first gymnastics competition for the year. She has been in the National Development Program since early primary school, so this is not a new thing. And let me just establish that this girl is a seasoned professional and a total poker face when it comes to competition – she trains for 18+ hours each week and knows her stuff.
Despite this, over recent years – my nervousness and anxiety with competitions has been increasing.
But last weekend most certainly took the cake. I made myself physically ill with stomach pains, nausea and a migraine as a result of my anxiety and irrational thinking. I found myself holding my breath at various points of the day – and this was before the competition even started!
There was no sympathy at home either because I am very careful to hide this anxiety – nobody needs that kind of negative energy before they start swinging around bars and pirouetting on beams do they?
My husband is the anti-thesis of anxiety and not many things get his heart rate over 80 bpm. He just reminded me that our girl had done all the preparing and she was fully able to do the doing. Great.
Just before the competition started – one of the other parents who was sitting quite a distance away from me (and clearly had a telescope) called my name – quite fiercely I might add. I turned around and she calmly looked at me and said – ‘breathe.’ Oh yes indeed, thanks for the reminder.
There are many things that we can do to reduce stress levels in our lives – getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, meditation and so many other ideas from people who are far more qualified than I to provide advice on how to manage anxiety.
But you know the one thing that is available to all of us, 24/7? Breathing.
Of course, breathing is something that we do without a seconds thought and yet, when we feel anxious or upset we often start with the whole shallow breathing thing or interval breathing (my fancy way of describing holding ones breath). Every week when I go to my yoga class, its all about the breath. Lets face it, it is almost impossible not to feel calm after yoga (unavailable poses aside) simply because the focus for 75 minutes has been breathing.
Anxiety presents itself in all kinds of circumstances – the work place, at home, sport, in relationships and so many other nooks and crannies. Clearly, deep breathing alone is not the cure-all for anxiety and stress but the beauty of engaging the breath is that you can access it anywhere, anytime without anyone being aware.
Taking three deep breaths in and out through your nose automatically induces calm. Research shows that blood pressure starts returning to appropriate levels, lungs work more efficiently, your brain can do its thing and a churning stomach works a lot better when oxygen is circulating.
Try the simple routine below to dial down the anxiety in three breaths.
The Power of Three Breaths to Take Down Anxiety
- Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose (with your mouth closed) and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose not your mouth. We are going to do two more of these breaths.
- Again, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.
- For the last time, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.
What about you? Do you have a breathing routine that you find to be effective for reducing anxiety?