There are times when life literally takes our breath away.
You might think I mean those exhilarating moments when we reach the peak of a mountain … cradle a newborn baby in our arms … or lift a sports trophy high in the air, savoring our achievement.
These are great experiences, to be sure But life is also filled with times when stress, worry and anxiety change the way our bodies work, making it even harder for us to cope with what’s happening.
Let’s say you’re rushing to meet a friend who hates it when you’re late. Suddenly your purse, car keys or phone are nowhere to be found. Yikes! She’s probably going to be disappointed, you think to yourself as you dash around looking for your missing items. By the time you leave the house, you’re worried about yourself (When did I get to be so disorganized? Am I losing my memory?). And you’re freaked out about what your friend might be saying to herself right now.
An everyday situation like this one will trigger a stress response in your body. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles tense up, readying you for action.
These reactions are nature’s way of preparing you for emergencies. Yet most of the everyday events that trigger our stress response systems are not life-or-death situations. Learning to calm our nerves by taking a few deep breaths is a simple, healthful solution.
A STRESS EXPERT’S ADVICE ON BREATHING AWAY ANXIETY
Andrew Weill, MD, is a well-known authority in the field of health and wellness. Dr. Weill has spent a lifetime looking for natural methods to enhance the body’s ability to resist stress and disease. Among his simple prescriptions are several breathing exercises you can try anywhere, anytime you’re feeling anxious.
Dr. Weill recommends the 4-7-8 breathing exercise for overcoming stressful feelings. Here are the steps to follow.
— Sit with your back straight.
— Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth, keeping it there throughout the exercise.
— Take a deep breath and let it out slowly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
— Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose as you silently count to 4.
— Hold your breath and count silently to 7.
— Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, ending with a count of 8.
This cycle counts as one full breath. Repeat the cycle 3 more times, for a total of 4 complete breaths.
HELPFUL FOR EVERYONE – ESPECIALLY THOSE IN CAREGIVING ROLES
This simple exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system, Dr. Weil explains. Unlike prescription drugs, which might ease stress at first but lose their effects over time, breathing is a gentle, natural cure. You can feel the effects instantly, but the technique will become even more effective with practice. And there are no harmful side effects!
Virtually all of us can benefit from Dr. Weil’s array of breathing exercises. But if you’re in a caregiving role – for example, taking care of a sick, injured or aging loved one – you may find that breathing exercises are a true lifesaver.
Providing care for someone you care about is a pressure-filled job, and the problem of caregiver burnout is well known to doctors and therapists. You may feel the need to give your loved one your undivided attention around the clock, which leaves little time for you to restore your own energies.
Imagine how helpful it can be to breathe deeply and feel the stress leave your body within seconds. It’s a guilt-free way to give yourself a little TLC, and you can practice it even when you can’t leave your loved one’s side. Just a few sessions a day can make a tremendous difference in how you feel – and better breathing may even help you sleep more peacefully at night.
FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S CHALLENGES
As a therapist working with adults of all ages Oak Park, I am here to support your health and well-being. If you need help coping with stress, anxiety or the demands of caring for a loved one, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach me at 708-990-3867 – or click here to send a confidential message.