September 30, 2020 by Mark Hammerstrom
The last couple of blogs I have written have had to do with pretty serious stuff. Record levels of consumer debt. Doubts about our ability to manage this debt given the economic uncertainty we are facing. Add to that COVID-19, the political environment, racial tensions and natural disasters. Who could blame us for feeling just a little bit tense?
Okay, at times very tense if we are honest.
Let’s face it, too, that it is not likely to get any less tense in the next few months or even years. So, what to do?
Well, for starters let’s take a breath.
No, seriously. I mean a real, deep breath.
Take just a minute right now and sit back and try to relax. Now, take a deep breath– in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Now do it again. And again. Maybe ten times? Nice and easy, but deep and regular breaths.
Feel any different? Maybe not; but maybe so.
I find it easy in these times to simply forget the importance of doing the things I need to do to stay healthy. Eat right. Get exercise. Rest when we need to and be sure to get a good night’s sleep.
Breathing is one thing that is just easy to take for granted. It is automatic. I don’t know about you, but I hardly notice when I am breathing. Usually it is only when exercising or under stress that I notice I am breathing harder or, alternately, shallower.
Breathing of course is critical. Try holding your breath for a minute or longer. Your body and mind will force you to breathe. Even if we hold our breath too long and pass out, the body goes back to breathing. Our instinct for self-preservation is extraordinarily strong and breathing is strong evidence of that.
So why stop and take a breath now and then? Why is it that simply paying attention to our breathing can help our stress and relieve, at least for a moment, tension?
Just Google “Importance of breathing” and you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of articles and studies attesting to the benefits of proper breathing.
One article in Scientific American, “Proper Breathing Brings Better Health” by Christophe André, is a more in depth look at how breathing is important to our wellbeing (read it here).
He lists several benefits including greater peace of mind, anxiety relief and help with sleep disorders and insomnia.
Techniques for taking that ‘deep breath’ are wide ranging, from the simple to more involved meditation or mindfulness practices. He notes: “In fact, every relaxation, calming or meditation technique relies on breathing, which may be the lowest common denominator in all the approaches to calming the body and mind.”
Boiling it down, however, he offers several commonly used techniques that can help us manage our stress and use breathing to our full advantage.
- Stand up straight: Or, make sure your posture, sitting or standing, is correct. “hold yourself straight, without stiffness, shoulders back, sitting or standing. This body posture facilitates the free play of the respiratory muscles (of the diaphragm and between the ribs). Good posture enables your body to breathe properly on its own.”
- Follow Your Breath: While you are in a good position, watch or observe your breathing. “…be aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat or on the movements of your chest and belly. When you feel your thoughts drift (which is natural), redirect your attention to your breath.”
- Abdominal Breathing: Start your breath in your abdomen instead of your lungs. “…start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first ‘empty’ your stomach, then your chest.
- Rhythmic Breathing: Develop a rhythm to your breathing. This is not something to do while you multi-task! “Near the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while mentally counting ‘1, 2, 3’ and holding the air before exhaling. This counting while not breathing can also be done after exhaling or between each inhalation or exhalation. It is often recommended for anxious patients to calm anxiety attacks because it induces a beneficial slowing of the breathing rate.”
- Alternate Nostrils: This sound weird but perform rhythmic breathing by breathing in and out through one nostril while holding the other closed with your finger. Then alternate. “Research suggests that what is most important, aside from slowing the breathing rhythm, is breathing through the nose, which is somewhat more soothing than breathing through your mouth.”
- Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing: I find that focusing on the breath while acknowledging difficult thoughts as they pass, then re-focusing just on the breath or more positive thoughts helps produce a more pronounced calm.
If these techniques work for you, and you wish to take them further, there are many meditation or mindfulness resources available on the web. YouTube and similar resources also have guided instruction videos to help get us into a more practiced routine. There are also apps like Headspace and Calm that are good guides to using our breathing to help us find even momentary relief from the stresses we all face.
So, take a moment to get comfortable. Now, breathe in through the nose…and out through the mouth…
United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency that has been providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners in the Midwest since 1950. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com, call 877-723-2902, or check out our YouTube video.
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