Are You Breathing?
Managing Your Day-to-Day and Emergency Stress is Simple, Quick, Private (and it works!)
This 4-step, on-the-spot stress management technique is being used —right this minute as you are reading this— by millions of healthcare, business, sports, entertainment, Internet, sales, teaching, and homemaker professionals. It works for every age and level of health. It will work for you too!
1 . . .
Sit or stand, feet flat on the floor, hands at your sides. [Why? Because crossed arms, legs, ankles, and wrists constrain your blood and oxygen flow.] Close your mouth, then Take a slow deep breath in through your nose, as you mentally say to yourself: “Healing energy into my body [or name the body location that feels most stressful].”
2 . . .
Mentally direct the air you inhale to the bottom part of your lungs so your stomach sticks out instead of your chest – the opposite of your usual top-of-the-lung breathing! [It helps the first time you do this, to keep one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest to accentuate and feel the air going to the bottom part of your lungs, and then feel the shift up to the top part of your lungs.]
3 . . .
Now—before exhaling—shift the air to the top part of your lungs so that your stomach is in and your chest is out. Hold it there a few seconds, then loosen your jaw and exhale through your mouth with your lips almost closed [think of filling a balloon] in a slow steady stream so you can hear the air passing smoothly through your almost-closed lips. AS YOU EXHALE, Mentally, say to yourself:
“Stress and tension out of my body [or out of the place you named that felt most stressful].” Pay attention to your airflow. Listen to it. The goal is to eliminate or smooth out any nervous-sounding “hitches” in your exhale. The next step will help you do that.
4 . . .
When you think you’ve breathed out all the air, don’t believe it! Give an extra little push or two at the end of your exhale. It’s these extra exhale pushes that do the trick, that will make this exercise work for you. As soon as all the air is out, close your mouth and inhale again through your nose, repeating the process again until you hear yourself exhale smoothly and evenly until no nervous little airflow “hitches” remains.
Go slowly at first, the same way you would begin any new exercise. If you experience slight dizziness or coughing (or see smoke if you are a smoker!), don’t be alarmed. These are simply “signals” from your body that your oxygen is not circulating enough and that you can benefit even more by doing more deep breathing more often. So, if this occurs, simply return to your “normal” way of breathing. And then try it again later and work up to taking more full deep breaths
This is the Mother of all self-management/self-control methods. Work at it! Practice. You’ll soon be taking deep breaths as routinely as most performers and athletes do—on the spot in stressful situations for ongoing good health—without being noticed!
Every deep breath you take increases your blood flow, relaxes your muscles, and boosts the oxygen supply to your brain to help you be more alert, and soothe your neurological system.
Every deep breath you take increases your personal productivity by increasing your mental focus on the present moment — on what is right in front of you! After all, along with your pulse and your heartbeat, your breathing is the most immediate happening in your entire life.
Remember, if you can train yourself to take deep breaths in response to stressful situations, you will be responding instead of reacting. When you can prevent yourself from reacting, you eliminate all risk of over-reacting.
Just as flames die without oxygen, so will your ability to focus productively on the present moment die out when your “normal” way of breathing fails to deliver enough blood flow to your muscles and enough oxygen to your brain.
When you use the 4 steps shown above, you keep your mind and body tuned into the present moment . . . and since the present moment is all we really have in life, remember:
The secret of life . . . is breath!
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