For this post, I am trying something new. Before you read any further, please click here to listen to an audio preview:
An Underutilized Tool
I hope that those few breaths placed you into a more relaxed state as you continue reading. This week, I have realized how often I am talking to my clients about this critical self-care strategy. I think that many of us overlook breathing when we think about our self-care. “Just breathe” is a phrase that is often talked about, but actually, physically breathing is something that we just skip over.
I think that we forget about breathing as a tool in our self-care kits because it seems so obvious. Breathing is a function that our bodies will perform for us without our obvious choice or intention. We may have been told to “take a breath and calm down,” so often that we no longer register that there is important information in that cliche.
Breathing properly is one of the the small gifts that we can give ourselves at any time, and no matter how busy we are. We have to keep breathing anyway, so we can fit it in. Even some really good, deep breaths only take a few seconds, so we’re not trying to carve out large chunks of our schedule to fit it in. We are constantly breathing, so we don’t need any special equipment.
But wait, you might be asking, didn’t I just say that we’re breathing all the time? That we do it automatically? If that’s true, what’s all this business about breathing “properly?” Yes, we are breathing all the time, and yes, it is unconscious. However, if you tune in to your breathing throughout a normal day, you might notice that your breathing is actually fairly shallow. This can reflect tension, fatigue, or distraction. When you turn your attention to your breathing, it naturally begins to deepen. These deeper breaths, like the ones we take when we are sleeping, allow more of the vital oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange to happen, which lowers tension and helps our bodies work better.
So a proper breath includes these components:
- A body position where your lungs aren’t restricted.
- A slow inhale with a focus on trying to allow your lungs and diaphragm to expand.
- A slow exhale with a focus on allowing as much air as possible to escape.
That’s it! Super simple stuff. So, my challenge to you this week is to try to remind yourself at least once a day to “just breathe.” It would be even more fun if you pay attention to things like tension in your body, and how breathing affects that. Do you have a breathing success to share? What did you think of the audio clip–should I do that more often? I always appreciate your voices.
Image Credit: Photo by shawnzrossi