Take control of your thoughts and responses to daily stress by taking control of your breathing.
“Most people don’t breathe correctly and don’t know it.”
~Dr. Mehmet Oz
This is unfortunately true. They attribute their lack of energy to overwork and lack of sleep, among other reasons. While this is true, the fact is that many of us don’t take full, deep breaths. We don’t breathe properly and don’t think about it because we breathe unconsciously, taking the power of our breath for granted. Breathing is the one physical, bodily function that we can actually control and change consciously.
The solution is as simple and as close as your breath. It’s “conscious breathing.” By paying attention to your breath throughout the day and taking conscious, intentional breaks to breathe with purpose and in a mindful way, you change the way you experience stressors and life’s challenges, whether they be professional or personal, mental or physical.
Just like exercising your body daily, scheduling time to breath consciously takes commitment, time, patience and attention. Introducing conscious breathing is like introducing exercise into your life….it takes a while, through regular repetition, for you to adjust to a new behavior and to strengthen the breathing “muscle.” So, it may be necessary to devise ways to make sure you begin to breathe consciously.
Schedule Breath Breaks* Into Your Day
If you have a blackberry, daytimer, appointment book that you rely on to keep you on track, then schedule at least 6 times throughout the day. Just write “breathe” at 10:15am (for example) and if your phone/calendar can be set to “ring” for each appointment, then use that feature to keep you on course.
Change Something Up
Put your watch on the other wrist and each time you notice the watch, take a breath. Another option is move one thing around on your desk (maybe move your phone to the other side of the desk) and each time you notice the change, take a deep breath.
Pay Attention Throughout Your Day
When you become aware that you’re feeling stressed, stop and take a breath. If you need to step away from a situation or leave the office/environment, do so. Identify one place in your home and/or office where you can go to get 5 minutes of quiet time. Bring your ipod with you if you’d like and listen to wordless, relaxing music and breathe in ease, feeling your body soften and relax with each exhale.
Keep track of how you respond to the “waves” that come upon you throughout the day. Keep a wave notebook with you and just jot down how you handled the waves as they came upon you. Were you successful – able to “ride” the wave? Were you pulled under by the wave? It may seem silly, but getting what’s in your head onto paper can be a crucial step in helping to alleviate the negative body responses….i.e., preventing you from getting pulled under by the wave.
Important: No Judgements
This is a process that takes time, conscious attention and repetition. The more you follow the above steps, the better the ride! What will eventually happen is that your body will automatically breathe when it comes upon stressors, the opposite of what is happening now (not breathing at all). Your body will KNOW that it needs a breath, craves a breath, and it will breathe for you, unconsciously. This is the ultimate goal, that your body is so tuned in to your rhythms and knows when you need more oxygen…and provides it.
*BREATH BREAKS are 60 – 90 seconds when you pause and take 5 – 10 conscious, deep, relaxing breaths, paying attention to the sound of each breath and the feeling that comes over your body as you let the exhale take away tensions in your body while the inhale fills your lungs with nourishing oxygen. Inhale through your nose to engage the nitric oxide that helps wake the body up (in a healthy way); and exhale slowly through pursed yet relaxed lips. Feel your jaw relax, your shoulders drop, your body unclench, your mind soften its thoughts. Feel yourself letting go of holding on.
Rebecca Spath, CSC, MBP, AHT is a transformational life and wellness coach and Breathwork practitioner. Rebecca works with business owners and entrepreneurs in the greater New York City area through her studio Breathing Room Therapies.