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Just Breathe

Breathing exercises are a great first step in managing stress.

Just Breathe

We know stress isn’t healthy. Stressors like “I can’t make my house payment” or “I’m going through a divorce” are more evident in their health-damaging effects. We can feel and, sometimes, even see the results of acute stress. However, even “life’s little stresses” and worrying can damage your body over time. Your body reacts to worry as if what you’re worried about is happening right now. You’ve envisioned the crisis, and your subconscious mind doesn’t know the threat is imaginary.

You’re relaxed now, right? So, try to think of something that’s worrying you lately. Imagine the following: 

What if the worst happened? What if the phone rang, confirming your worst fear came true? Did you start breathing a little faster or start feeling sick to your stomach? Are your hands shaking? That’s your body responding to your thoughts. 

Here’s another example:

Think of a beautiful yellow lemon. Imagine holding it in your hand, then putting it down on a cutting board and cutting it in half. Now, imagine squeezing the juice of that lemon right into your mouth. Did just thinking of this make your jaw tighten? Did you salivate?

Your thoughts become feelings, sensations, and actions in your body. If you become aware of your thoughts and learn to control them, you can begin to manage your health better. In those stressful moments when you can feel your heart rate increase, your breathing change, or a tension headache coming on, take time to breathe. 

Here’s how to do it:

• Slowly breathe in through your nose. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, not raising the shoulders, and count to four.

• Hold your breath and count to four again.

• Now, slowly exhale for four more seconds.

• Then, hold your breath on the exhale for another four seconds. Note: If the exercise is too strenuous for you, lower the counts to one, two, or three.

• Repeat the exercise until you feel the tension or nervousness leaving your body.

• Do this exercise whenever you feel stressed or to relax at the end of the day.