Pause, breathe, choose: I remind my clients (and myself) of this
sequence frequently, adding that the response we make to a
stressful event is our choice, not a given.
To reach the point where we recognize other choices, it is
important to be able to distance ourselves from the world and
center on our own bodies and minds. Correct breathing is the key
here. If you have ever studied voice or a wind instrument, you
probably know how to do this already.
If not, here’s a primer: deep breathing doesn’t come from the
chest, but from the abdomen. Therefore, the best way to start
taking a deep, relaxed breath is to let go of all the muscles you
have probably been trying so hard to hold in. Feel the entire front
of your body release; if you are sitting down and are not skeleton-
thin, you may feel a portion of your lower abdomen touch the very tops of your thighs.
At the moment that this happens, think of your body filling with air, and picture that air reaching
all the way down into the bottom of your abdomen. At the same time, you will probably become
aware that your entire rib cage is expanding to the side as well as to the front.
Once you have grasped this technique, try the following sequence:
- Inhale for four slow counts
- Exhale for four slow counts
- Stay empty for four slow counts
Your body contains enough oxygen for you to rest comfortably for four slow counts without
feeling the slightest bit deprived, yet somehow in this state it is difficult if not impossible to
think of anything except your body, especially the center of your body which is involved with
breathing. Your consciousness pulls in until the outer world recedes, and you are all alone,
comfortably, with yourself. The squirrel wheel of your mind even stops.
Repeat this exercise several times. If you do it for ten minutes, you are taking giant steps towards
maintaining physical and mental health, for it not only slows down your thinking but also slows
down your nervous system and your heart rate.
In this state, unimportant events somehow slip away. You may find they are replaced by truly
creative thoughts about how to plan your next moves.
Once you have learned this technique, you can practice it anywhere. Just a deep breath or two
can help you handle a difficult situation with less stress.
Easy, and cheap. What more can you ask for?
Lynette Crane, M.A.(Psychology) and Certified Life Coach, has more than 30 years' experience
in the field of stress management. She currently works to provide stress and time pressure
solutions to harried women, those women who seek "Islands of Peace" in their overly-busy lives.
Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to
view her programs.