I made it through another January! And I’m taking a deep breath…
I do a lot of breathing. Not surprising, since I am alive and breathing is an involuntary action which is controlled subconsciously by the respiratory center at the base of the brain. And that’s as scientific as I’m gonna get here.
But really, it’s not something I usually think about. I just breathe.
Until I realize that I’m not breathing. Or at least, not breathing well. And my head starts to hurt and I feel tense and anxious and light headed and just generally all around lousy.
I didn’t always notice when this happened. But with time and experience and practice and quite simply a desperate need to do something when I felt like that, I began to take notice, and to take action.
I learned how to breathe.
Not just the automatic, subconscious kind of breathing. But deep, relaxing breathing.
You may already know how to do this. And if so, please feel free to skip ahead. But for the sake of being informative, I’m going to share how I like to deeply breathe.
- First, I try to stop doing anything else. (Unless I’m driving. Or other obvious this-would-not-be-a-good-thing-to-stop actions.)
- Next, I take a deeeeeeep breath. As deep as I possibly can. Past the point where I don’t think I can take in anymore air and then just one sip more.
- Then, I pause. Breath held. Just for a heartbeat.
- And… I let all that air out! All of it. Every last molecule. Past the point where I don’t think I can let any more air out and then just one bit more.
- Again, I pause. Breath held. Just for a heartbeat.
- Finally, I repeat if needed. And very often I do this several times. I try to do it until I feel like I’ve had my very deepest, fullest breath. (And that usually makes me yawn!)
I just did this now and oh my goodness it feels great!
I find that stopping and deeply breathing has two main positive effects on me.
First, the act of focusing on my breath takes my mind off of everything else for a moment. No worries about the past. No anxieties about the future. It gives my brain a break from thinking about the one million other things it typically thinks about, and just thinks about breathing. In and out. That’s a beautiful break.
Second, while I’m focused on my body’s ability to inhale and exhale, I feel the rest of my muscles start to relax. As if they have permission to be off-duty for a moment while my lungs and diaphragm have a turn. I try to deliberately relax everything else. Especially my neck and shoulders, where I am apparently quite talented in holding tension. Now my mind and my body are getting a break.
The only question that remains is, when do I do this?
Ummm. All. The. Time.
When I first wake up in the morning, I try to get some deep “hello world” breaths in.
Before I have to do something that I feel nervous about, like a dental procedure, or playing any sport that involves having ball-sense (which I do not)… I take several deep breaths to try to relax.
After doing something that was particularly nerve-wracking, like an interview, or taking my boys to the dentist…. I take several deep breaths to clear out the tension.
Any time during the day when my mind is spinning too wildly, or my body is rushing too crazily… I stop for just a moment and focus on my breathing and re-center myself.
At the end of the day, I try to get some deep “thank you world” breaths in.
And where do I use this the most right now? Well, as a mother of two extremely high-energy 5 year olds, this is my pause-before-I-explode technique. Funny enough, I’m in the process of teaching the rather dramatic 5 year olds how to have better emotional regulation. I’ve been working with them on learning to stop when they feel themselves get angry/frustrated/upset and take a deep breath before choosing to do something better than scream or cry. Funny, because I realized that I need to do the same thing.
So, when the boys are tearing through the house and bouncing off furniture and I can feel my heartbeat increase and a big ol’ yell building in my throat… I stop… and breathe.
(OK, I try. I really do! Reality check that this is not always the case. I’m totally a work in progress.)
But, those times that I catch myself and I stop, and I breathe, it’s just a split second long enough for me to make a better choice than totally freaking out.
And what’s been really amazing, is that when my boys see me do this, they are more likely to do it themselves! Go figure.
I’ll even vocalize what I’m doing. I’ll take my deep breath (or two) and then say to the boys, “I was getting really upset. So I stopped and took a breath. Now I can talk to you more calmly.” And the cheeky little things will even say things back to me when they see me take a deep breath, like, “Mommy, you needed to take a breath, ’cause you’re real mad right now.”
And there it is. How I breathe. It’s how I got through another dark, cold January. And how I try to get through just about anything. When things are getting heavy, I try to just breathe.
It’s amazing what a deep breath can do. Want to try it?