Breathing has become a huge part of my life. And I'm not talking about the normal inhale and exhale breath that keeps us alive - that is a very important action for obvious reasons.
I'm talking about a specific type of breathing: mindful breathing. Whether you find yourself being tied up at work, busy with your children, handling a personal matter, or going through something emotional with your family or loved ones - taking the time to pull yourself away from your day to day and concentrate on the breath is one of the most impactful and grounding actions that I have ever done for myself. It seems so simple, and the good news is - it is simple! So you are in luck!
A bit about my experience with anxiety and breathing...
I have lived the past 10 years in Manhattan (until this past January with a recent move to the suburbs), and keeping up with the pace of New York City is a rigorous task to say the least. I remember the summer before I had planned to move to the city from Virginia ten years ago. I was driving around with a real estate agent from Douglas Elliman. He was showing me a variety of apartments for my roommate and I to potentially rent. To say it was an emotional time is an understatement. I recall a very vivid moment standing on some avenue on the Upper East Side, looking up, and the world was just spinning: spinning within me and spinning around me. I literally could not see straight. It was a time in my life where I felt a huge wave of anxiety and I remember it ten years later like it was yesterday. I was completely overwhelmed. I was in it...fully, madly, deeply. And from that moment on, although I was equipped with zero coping mechanisms, I was about to get lost in everything the city had to offer.
Little did I know, moments like this would not subside. Instead they grew to be more common than not throughout the decade of my 20s. Since I knew no way to cope with the anxiety, it would build up and ultimately take over my mood and outlook on life. It was all-consuming, and in the worst way possible. Only now in moments of reflection can I see clearly what the build up of anxiety was resulting in: a foggy mind, emotionally-charged responses professionally and personally, always feeling like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and feeling huge moments of regret with many decisions I made.
And boy does it take a while for habits to begin to lose their form and start to unravel...
Mindful breathing is a simple and quick way to de-stress. The body cannot be in a stressed state when you incorporate one of the below. They will take up mere minutes of your day, but even better than that, they will leave you with a clear mind and an open spirit, ready to conquer the task at hand and spend the day being as productive as possible! Approach with an open mind and give it a try!
4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
1. Close your mouth and press the tip of your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth.
2. Inhale for 4 seconds.
3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
4. Opening your mouth, slowly exhale for 8 seconds.
5. Repeat 4 times.
I aim to practice this exercise 1-2 times a day. This takes less than 90 seconds per practice.
Inhale for 5, Exhale for 5
1. Inhale slowly for 5 seconds through the nose.
2. Exhale slowly for 5 seconds through the mouth.
Repeat 2-5 times, or whenever is needed. I incorporate this practice as I am walking around, in between meetings, or running errands to encourage myself to just slow down a bit.
1. Sit tall and close your eyes.
2. Close your right nostril between your thumb and forefinger. Inhale completely through your left nostril.
3. Close your left nostril between your same thumb and forefinger. Exhale completely through your right nostril.
4. Repeat 5 times. Then repeat, reversing the direction of the breath.
This is a great breathing practice at the gym, or when you are relaxing at home at night. I tend to practice this in more private settings, otherwise you may or may not receive a strange look from passersby!
Use the comments section to share a time when mindful breathing has benefited your day. How did it make you feel? Which of these practices do you think you can incorporate into your routine? When will you practice them?