Take a Deep Breath, Relieve Your Stress

Earlier this year, after I lost my temper and began arguing with my partner, he took a moment of pause and said, “Take a deep breath.” Even in my anger, I knew he wasn’t trying to be patronizing, he simply knew I was irritated and wanted to help me relax. This is his thing; he spends 15 minutes every morning meditating. But I don’t. I suffer from an all-too-common condition. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, whatever the doctors have offered to diagnosis it as, I know it simply as: I can’t quiet my mind. Meditation has always felt like something that just wasn’t for me. You contorted yourself into uncomfortable positions, you had a mantra, you sat still for long periods of time. I couldn’t imagine making that a part of my life. And yet, in the midst of that fight, I decided to try. I took a deep breath. And then another. And then, a space opened up. I realized that you didn’t need to repeat some secret mantra or contort yourself into full lotus. You just needed to breathe. Just inhale, and exhale What works for me and many other beginners is called “coherent breathing”. It is a simple practice of inhaling for a count of six, and then exhaling for a count of six. For those just beginning the practice, it can be helpful to start at a count of three, working up with each new breath. You can be sitting upright or lying down, whatever is most comfortable; there’s no particular posture you need to assume to make it effective. To help narrow your focus on your breathing, you can place one or both hands atop your belly as you breath, feeling your abdomen rise and fall with each breath. When you take a moment to sit down and breathe, you may start worrying about things you have to get done that day, people you have to call, emails you have to respond to. Just come back to the awareness of your breathing. The longer you are able to keep your focus on that and nothing else, the more effective it will be at calming you down and relieving the stress of the day. Focus on your breath and the heavy stuff slips away. It sounds so simple, but there’s a complex biological process at work when you breathe deeply. During times of stress, we tend to breath in rapid, short breaths. Under duress, the oxygen levels in our bloodstream increase, carbon dioxide levels decrease and your blood’s pH comes out of balance. How breathing calms us down “Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic...

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