When you don't know what to do: just BREATHE

 
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When you are stressed or anxious and can’t concentrate; when you get emotionally hijacked by anger or frustration and are about to overreact (or maybe already did); when you are disappointed, sad, hopeless; or whenever you just don't know what else to do… JUST BREATHE.

The breath is special among bodily functions because it connects body, mind and spirit. Breathing, moreover, is one of the two bodily functions that can be controlled both voluntarily and involuntarily. The other is blinking ;)!

Your breath reflects your mental and emotional state at any given moment. More interestingly,you can learn how to use your breath to actively influence your mood and emotions!It requires some practice, but it is a truly amazing tool that is always available and it is free!

1) Start by noticing how your breath varies when you are stressed, anxious, angry, relaxed…

  • Shallow, upper chest breathing is typically associated with low energy and a sense of detachment instead of engagement.

  • Mid-chest breathing goes hand in hand with stress and anxiety and is often short, fast and erratic.

  • Lower belly breathing, meanwhile, tends to correspond with a more even energy and focused state of mind.

2) Then notice how as soon as you direct your attention to your breath (which usually occurs automatically) you bring it, at least to a certain degree, under your control. Also notice how you can’t do this say, with salivation or your heart rate.

3) Experiment with deep, even breathing for 2-5 minutes. The amazing thing is that by breathing more deeply for only a few minutes, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn activates the “relaxation response”.  In this way, by controlling your breath you can indirectly control your heart rate, blood pressure, brain wave patterns as well as hormones and neurotransmitters associated with stress. 

You can start by simply inhaling through your nose in a count of three, and then exhaling through the nose in a count of three. As you continue inhaling and exhaling in this even rhythm for a few minutes, let your thoughts come and go without judging them or attaching to them; whenever your mind wanders, just keep bringing your attention back to your breath. If this is too much for you and you are feeling short of breath, cut down your inhales and exhales to 2 counts. If its too easy, increase them to 4, 5, 6 counts. I also like to hold my inhale for a second and then my lungs empty for a second before I exhale. 

Begin to bring MINDFULNESS to your BREATHING! You have to breathe anyway, so why not squeeze some Calm Energy out of it? Remember: small, consistent practice goes a long way.