I was recently reminded about the connection between anxiety and the breath. This connection is one that you hear about often. When you look at a list for ways to reduce anxiety, one suggestion that you will frequently see is to take deep breaths. Simple, right? Just stop what you’re doing and take several deep breaths.
This suggestion is actually a great suggestion. Deeper breaths will definitely help to calm the body and lesson the anxiety. You see when you take short breaths that don’t fill the lungs up fully, your body begins to get worried about the lack of oxygen entering the body. This sends the signal that something is wrong. Your body reacts by getting anxious about the situation.
The opposite happens when you take deep breaths. You’ll send the signal to the body that all is well and there is no need to be anxious. You’ll feel calmer and be able to think more clearly.
Take a moment and watch the people around you breathe. Most people are not breathing fully. If you’re like most people, then you only fill the upper portion of the lungs when you breathe. This puts you in an almost constant state of anxiety when you habitually breathe this way.
This brings you back to your awareness. I talk a lot about being aware of your body. So, be aware of your breath. Notice how you are breathing right now. Is your breath shallow and fast or slow and deep? How do you feel as you read this? Are you anxious or relaxed? Notice the relationship between your breath and how you feel.
Going back to the simple advice of taking a deep breath to reduce your anxiety. If you’ve just noticed that your breath is fast and shallow, take a few moments to deepen your breath. Try to fill your lungs completely a few times. How do you now feel? Is there a change?
We’re in the time of year when you might feel an increased sense of anxiety. There can often seem like a never ending list of things to do, presents to buy and parties to attend. You might do these things in an effort to create the most amazing experience for those people that are closest to you. Unfortunately trying to create the ‘perfect’ experience leads to impossible expectations that you put on yourself and can dramatically increase your anxiety level.
So, as you go through this holiday season, remember this simple trick to reduce your anxiety levels. You may not completely get rid of your anxiety with the simple act of breathing deeper. However, if you can reduce your symptoms of anxiety with a few deep breaths, then maybe it’s time to give this a try. You have nothing to lose and a calmer body and mind to gain from this practice.
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