I got some blog advice today from a health newsletter that suggests when you get feeling anxious, instead of eating, you should “lace up your sneakers” and walk it off. While adding aerobic activity is often a good idea, what if taking a walk just isn’t possible at the moment anxiety strikes?
Lacing up your sneakers may not be an option because you’re bed-bound or can’t reach your feet. But supposing you’re stuck in traffic, knowing you’ll be late for an appointment; or in the office reading an email that says layoffs are coming; or at home cooking dinner to discover you don’t have a essential ingredient to complete the main dish.
The list can go on and on — including you can’t take a walk because of something as simple as it’s raining.
The one thing I know we all do, every day, all the time is breathe. Yep, in and out, inhale, exhale — I know it’s happening right now as you read these words. That makes it all the easier to reduce anxiety with one simple solution — Deep Belly Breathing.
When possible I enjoy doing a few sighing breaths first. Just like it sounds, sighing breaths are made by breathing in through the nose and out the mouth, making the sounds to release tension while vibrating across the face and jaw. I like to really get noisy, but when I can’t be making a racket, I start with my Deep Belly Breathing.
Begin with softening your diaphragm (below the base of lungs) and fill your lungs from bottom, middle to top (belly, ribcage, collarbone) and then control your exhale from top, then middle, then bottom. Squeeze the last bit of breath out, but don’t hold it to any discomfort. Let the new wave of breath flow in gently. If you get dizzy, stop and return to a normal breathing pattern. If you feel stinging, that’s just means you’re reaching parts of your lungs that haven’t been used in awhile. Continue with ease.
If you’d like visualization on this, think of your lungs as a pair of pitchers. When you pour into a pitcher (your inhale) it fills from the bottom, middle to top. When you pour from the pitcher into a class (your exhale) the pitchers empty from top, middle to bottom.
In addition to be calming, Deep Belly Breathing expands your lung capacity and improves your cardio-vascular exchange. It makes your heart more efficient as your body receives life-giving oxygen, all while picking up our body’s “trash” and releasing it more completely as carbon dioxide.
So next time anxiety strikes, little or small in magnitude, I hope you’ll use deep belly breath to fight back the blues. But remember while it can help, Deep Belly Breathing won’t change your situation. What it will do is help you to be your best self at the worst of times.