No matter what you do for a living, stress is everywhere today. Despite this, remember to stop everything and just breathe. Fortunately, there are many methods of stress relief available all the way from massage to healing energy to long walks outside. But if you’re stressed to the max and need to calm down in a hurry, you have a very important stress relief tool at your disposal; your breathing.
By simply being mindful of the moment and making time to breathe, you can turn a stress-fest around into an opportunity for learning. Breathing exercises can help you feel more energised, more balanced and better connected to the world around you, as well as relieving your stress.
Here are a few real-world situations that if you find yourself in, take a moment, stop everything and just breathe.
- You’re late to class (or work) and the only parking space available was really far away. Now you’ll have to run to make it on time. Your mind may be racing, but you’re going to have to slow down. A strong, steady walk can be as swift as a jog in terms of ground covered, and will give you the opportunity to quiet your mind and focus on one step after another. Time your breathing with your steps, ensuring that you completely empty your lungs over a few strides and completely fill them over the next few. Stay quiet and focused, and even if you have to enter class late, you’ll enter relaxed, calm and ready to work.
- You pulled an all-nighter trying to catch up and today it’s catching up with you. It is 3pm, a full two hours before you’re free to leave and you can barely hold your eyes open. The temptation to feed your tired mind with stimulants like caffeine and sugar may be strong – but before you resort to those, take several deep, energising breaths to re-focus your mind, oxygenate your blood and awaken your body. Caffeine and sugar may be tempting, but they are not going to help your physical body.
- For whatever reason, you just lost control and yelled at a co-worker, friend, or perhaps even a waiter at a restaurant. Whatever the situation and however justifiable your anger, losing control is never the right answer. Take a moment to go outside or to a private room where you can breathe. Once you’re calm, come back and apologise for losing control and try discussing the matter with a quiet mind.
- You wake up from an 8 hour night of sleep, but you’re still exhausted. Perhaps you tossed and turned thinking about work stress, or you were awakened in the middle of the night by children, pets, or other distractions. There is a Kundalini Yoga technique that may help in this situation. Called “breath of fire,” this technique begins with a few slow, deep breaths and then you breathe rapidly, mouth closed, through the nose, pumping your navel point as you do. This should help you feel more awake right away.
- You’re in a panic. Panic attacks, or anxiety attacks, are accompanied by heavy breathing and often hyperventilation, getting too much oxygen into the blood. When panic sets in, focus on slowing your breathing by breathing into a paper bag or through your cupped hands. Visualise yourself in a peaceful place or doing something that you really enjoy. Concentrate fully on your inhale and exhale.
- You have a dull, constant pain or pressure in your head. You try to ignore it but it gets worse as the day goes on. This is a tension headache and it can be caused by many things. A regular ibuprofen or other common headache medication will give you some relief, but before you pop the pills, try a few minutes of deep breathing. Try to clear your mind and go mentally to a happy place where you feel peaceful and calm, breathing slowly through the nose.
Remember that breathing is good for the mind and body. It is therapeutic. Take time each day to spend consciously taking deep breaths and relaxing your entire body. Life does not have to be so stressful. Sure, there are stressful things that happen, but there are also tools to help you de-stress. Take some time evaluate your stress levels today and make the necessary changes in order for you to live a peaceful and stress-free life.
Tony Fahkry is an expert in integrating the mind-body connection with health & healing and personal growth to achieve greater human potential.
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