Breathing In and Breathing Out – Bring That Stress Back Into Line

Breathing in and breathing out, breathing in and breathing out.  Right now, this is one thing we can do whilst our world experiences so much angst.  

Without diminishing or belittling the gravity of all affected or who have lost their lives to COVID-19, I am struggling to comprehend the actions and thought processes of some of my fellow humans who are in full panic mode.  When panic surrounds you, it can be difficult to remind yourself not to join the proverbial party. Please keep reminding yourself because this is important.

One of my lovely friends Cath of Conscious Business, has just shared a quote by Seth Godin who has said, “Panic is a choice and so is productive generosity.”  

It sure is.

With the global events that are happening all around us, it is important to remember that there are many things that we CAN actually do to look after ourselves and those around us.

One of the most simple things we do have control over is looking after our wellbeing and the act of simply breathing to keep stress levels at a healthy level.

A few years ago, as a result of self induced stress, I forgot about the importance of breathing and wrote about it on this blog.

I went looking for it today and decided that it was perfect timing to share it again.  

The moment in time that I wrote about eventually passed, as will the current world health events.  

A Story to Tell

Three years ago 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 – the weekend in question should not have featured even for a second.

My then 13-year-old daughter, had her first gymnastics competition for the year. She had been in the National Development Program since early primary school, so it was not a new thing. And let me just establish that this girl was a seasoned professional and a total poker face when it comes to competition – she trained for 18+ hours each week and knew her stuff.

Despite this, over recent years – my nervousness and anxiety with competitions had been increasing.

But one particular 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 was 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 indeedy, 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 expert 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 Breathing 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?