Just breathe.

…most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Put your hand on your chest. Feel it rise and fall as you inhale and exhale? That’s not

diaphragm

good. Most of us don’t breathe well. Most of us, most of the time, breathe shallow from our chest. Our lungs are located lower, and under our lungs is a muscle called the diaphragm.

I teach my clients something called Diaphragmatic Breathing. When we do this, the diaphragm contracts, the chest does not rise, but your belly rises and you can feel your lungs expand. This type of breathing is a natural, relaxed form of breathing in all mammals. This is how we should be breathing when we are relaxed and there is no present danger or threat. When we perceive danger or threat, we breathe shallow and fast…like an anxiety attack for instance. But, most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Belly breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen that goes into our blood. This in turn circulates more oxygen to our muscles, organs and brain. The benefits can include improved lung function, improved heart function, relaxation, slowing of your heart rate, anxiety and stress management and reduction, lowering blood pressure, centering yourself, emotional regulation, self-soothing and calming the chaos in your brain, just to name a few. By practicing regularly, you can calm yourself with only one or two breaths. I’ve been practicing belly breathing for about 7 years now and can usually take one or two breaths and my body responds.

I teach this to nearly every patient I have. So, I thought it might be helpful for you. I’m going to teach you the basic tenets and you can practice it and let me know in the comments what you think of it. You want to breathe deep from your diaphragm (or belly). Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. You will feel your belly rise and your lungs expand. Then exhale it all out through your mouth. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and make these the same amount of time. So if you count as you inhale, “1…2…3…4…5” you would count as you exhale “1…2…3…4…5”. Make sense? Great!

distracted

When I was first learning this skill, my mind would wander. And no matter how much I focused on the breathing or on the counting, my mind wandered. What did I need to get at Target later? Whose birthday is next? Why did Game of Thrones end? How did Game of Thrones end? How much of a telephone pole is in the ground? You see? It was a problem. But, I found out that if I had a visual image I could focus on that. My visual was the numbers as I counted. My numbers look like black house numbers you buy at the hardware store. Your numbers could look like clouds or be colors or whatever works for you.

If you try to ignore a distracting thought, it just knocks louder on the door. It’s best to acknowledge the thought and then go back to focusing on the breathing, or the counting or the numbers. Something like this, “Oops, I can think about my Target list later, now I’m going to focus on my breathing.” then let the distracting thought pass through your mind and refocus. It’s more difficult at first, but it gets easier the more you practice.

Some patients imagine inhaling a warm light, or peace, calm, love, (positive things) and then exhaling chaos, darkness, sadness, anxiety. Try this. Use it if it works for you and don’t if it doesn’t. Practice at least 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time. Set a timer so you aren’t distracted by the clock. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and give it a try. When you need to use it, you will be surprised how fast your body responds after practicing for awhile. Let me know in the comments how it goes for you! Happy breathing!

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous!

Jules

So I’m freaking out…

Superman left for boot camp January 17. I’ve heard from him a couple of times while he was in reception, but I know from last year when Bear went to boot camp, that now I won’t hear from him again until I get a letter. Every day I check the mail, telling myself not to expect anything, but in my mommy heart I can’t help it. I hope there is a letter. At times my mind gets the best of me and I find myself imagining all kinds of not so pleasant scenarios that my army boy might be finding himself in. If I let my emotions take control, I could get pretty worked up. If I take control of my emotions, I control the fear and anxiety and it doesn’t have any power.

“But Jules, I can’t control my fear, it takes over and I can’t do anything about it!” I hear ya. I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in that same state of fear and anxiety. I’ve had anxiety attacks. I get it. Then I learned that I can control it! So can you! ┬áSound ridiculous? Read on…

solutionAnxiety is a state of fear. Fear is an emotion. Our emotions are controlled by a couple of things. 1. Our thoughts and words. Let’s say every time you get in your car you get anxious. First identify what you are afraid of and what your thoughts are. Then exchange those fearful/negative thoughts for empowering/positive thoughts. Write your new thoughts on post it notes and put them on the dash of the car. “I’m capable.” “I’m a safe driver.” “I can do this.” Every time you have a fearful thought, replace it by reading/speaking/thinking an empowering thought. The cool thing is you don’t even have to believe it! You are simply creating a new neuropathway in your brain, and eventually the empowering thought will become your default.

2. Our body. What is the first sign in your body that you are getting anxious? Maybe your heart or breathing speeds up. Maybe you clench your jaw. Maybe your hands get tingly. Whatever it is notice it. As soon as you feel the first sign, try a grounding technique using your senses. Find something to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Rub your jeans with your hands, focus on a something you can see, what can you hear, taste something strong like peppermint or cinnamon gum, hold an ice cube, smell some lotion or oil. Using your senses will help bring you into the present moment and calm your body. Take a few deep breaths and use your empowering thoughts.

There are a couple of other good tools I will give you for anxiety attacks. 1. Ask yourself anxiety“What’s the worst that will happen?” Often the worst that our emotional brain has us thinking, isn’t so bad once we say it out loud. Once we hear it spoken we realize that we can deal with it. 2. Use 1-100 thinking. Ask yourself “1-100 how likely is my fear to actually happen today?” Often our logical brain helps us realize that it’s not too likely, and it can help decrease your fear and let it go. If it is likely to happen, make a plan and take control of what you can control.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take hard work and practice. I’m just saying that it’s possible. I’d love to talk to you more about controlling your anxiety. Contact me for an appointment in the Kansas City area.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules