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Inhale . Exhale

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Anxiety is not something that is new in my life, since I was a teenager I have had to cope with it. It's funny, most people do not really notice their breath on a day to day basis, is it slow and relaxed, fast and shallow, how it is affecting your overall person. But when you deal with anxiety you know how important breath is and how quickly it changes when you are feeling anxious. You feel like you cannot breathe and that something major is wrong, in a way, a lack of control over your body and impending doom, even when there is not. When we have a physically or emotionally traumatic experience our initial response is to hold our breath. Through many years of trial and error and learning how my body works with anxiety, I have become acustome to taking control of anxiety with my focus on breath. When I began to practice breathing, which sounds silly when our breath is a natural process, I saw the benefit it had. One of our biggest problems as humans is taking breath for granted, not breathing consciously. I taught myself how to control my anxiety episodes. I knew what my triggers were and I started to recognize the feelings that were arising as my anxiety heightened, this helped me to start my deep breath work. It sounds easy, like a two step process - identify anxiety and then focus on breath. In all honesty, it was a challenging task that took many years for me to master... and thats me! sometimes it can be harder for others, but I managed to do it on my own.

To truly understand how to harness the power of breathing, we need to know the inner workings of our body starting with our diaphragm. It is a very unique part of the body, located in the upper chest, and plays one of the largest roles in breath control, it truly is responsible for each breath we take. The diaphragm can shift your gears in and out of what is commonly known as the fight and flight response, it is crucial for breathing, healing and feeling energized. When we hold breath, breath is short and rapid , there is a feeling of tightness in the chest and the sensation of difficulty breathing, these are all characteristics of an anxiety attack. We signal our body to go into hyper arousal, shutting down many systems and re-routing energy to our muscles and organs to get ready to run or fight. This is our body’s evolutionary defense system. In ancient times this truly was a life or death situation, but more commonly in today's society, anixety can be caused by simple things; work, family life, finances and may may more non-life threatening moments. It is important to ground yourself in those moments and reflect on the severity of the situation, it is really life or death? or is it my bodies natural reaction? If you can recognize and really become aware of your body sensations and feelings, you can start to down regulate the nervous system and the flight and fight response before it becomes a full episode. Again, this sounds simple, need to have compassion towards yourself in these times, and change your inner dialogue. That inner dialogue can also help you relax and realize that your mind is controlling you and there is no real physical/emotional trauma happening. We all know how powerful the mind is over the body, it is psychosomatic. It is possible to take control of these experiences, have faith in this. Practice breathing, it is a skillset that can really strengthen and become more natural the more you practice. When we are in a state of relaxation and slow breathing our body performs important tasks like repairing muscle and joints, actively absorbing nutrients from the food we eat, allowing the body to find deep restorative sleep. To down regulate the nervous system and allow for deep diaphragmatic breathing, we have to teach ourselves first to recognize through our day how we are breathing. This means pause and take notice, listen to your breath. Get familiar with your body and how you tense up even while doing mundane tasks, or when you're engaging in conversations. When you recognize some of your patterns it is helpful to start the relaxation response. This doesn't mean you stop what you're doing completely, or that you need to lie down, really it is not complicated, start simple.

Here is how to start:

1. Sit up tall. Widen and lift your chest. Breathe through your nostrils. Count your in breath to 3 and your out breath to 3. Do this a few times.

2. Add an additional count increasing it slowly making sure it is a comfortable easy breath.

3. Practice this regularly. In the morning when you are waking up, in the evening before sleep, or anytime you realize you're holding your breath, especially when you are noticing your feeling anxious or bothered.

Rachel xo

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