I’ve noticed that the first thing to go when I get stressed or overwhelmed is my breath. I often start to breathe more shallowly. Sometimes, I even start to hold my breath and this makes my stress even worse. Does that sound familiar? Do you do that too?
Breath is so important to our lives & yet when you’re stressed, you can start to withhold it from your body. It’s a downward spiral at that point.
Do you hold your breath or breathe faster?
Holding your breath can lead to tight, stressed muscles. Your body acts as if it’s bracing for an impact when you hold your breath. Try holding your breath right now. What do you notice in your body? When I hold my breath, my entire body goes tense. It’s not a state that I want to hold for long.
My other response to stress can be shallow, rapid breathing. This type of breathing can lead to increased anxiety. When you breath in a shallow & rapid way, it activates a response in your body. Your body begins to think that it needs to react to a situation that is dangerous & thus the anxiety that you feel will increase. The longer that you breathe in this manner, the higher your anxiety will go. It’s a spiral that will feed on itself unless you do something about it.
What to do when this happens
For me, the first step to stopping this downward spiral, is to be aware that I’m stressed over something. Awareness is always a great place to start!
Bringing my awareness to whatever is causing the stress gives me the chance to make a change. At that point, I’ll have two main choices. I can either change the situation so that my stress is less. Or, I can change my reaction to the situation.
My awareness of what is happening will lead me to make a choice as to which is the right action to take. If it’s a simple change in my life that I can take, then my breathing will return to normal as soon as I make that shift.
There are times, though, where I can’t change the situation that is causing the stress. When this happens, then I still have the choice to make a change in myself.
How do I do this?
I can alter my shallow breath by deliberately slowing down & deepening the breaths that I take. This will immediately bring a little relief to my body. The anxiety spiral that rapid breathing can cause will be interrupted and my body can begin to calm itself.
It all comes back to awareness!
With awareness, you can slow down the anxiety spiral that is so common in so many people right now. So, when you notice that you’re stressed and your breath is shallow, focus on deepening your inhale and exhale. Within a few breaths, you’ll start to feel better.
You can begin to reduce anxiety and stress with just your breath. So, it’s your turn to practice. Inhale….exhale….repeat. It really can be a simple fix that is always available to you.
Give it a try & let me know how it goes for you!
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