Written by: Barb Chapman
Copyright: November 2018
Have you ever wondered why others suggest deep breathing? Are you someone who thinks the idea is silly and useless as we all breathe continuously, or are you someone who uses this mindfulness technique every day? Check these scenarios out and spot the differences.
Joe’s alarm goes off at 6am on Monday morning and he hits snooze, he wants to go back to sleep for 10 more minutes. Joe doesn’t fall asleep and the alarm rings again. He shuts it off, gets out of bed and sluggishly heads to the washroom for his shower. After his shower he is still tired and grumpy but heads to the kitchen to eat some breakfast and grab a coffee before heading off to work. Joe arrives at work still feeling a bit tired but ready for his day. His day is stressful and as the day goes on he feels more and more tense in his shoulders and frustration with his work.
He wants to go in to his boss and threaten to quit his job he is so frustrated. Although he chooses not to, he does swear under his breath and pounds his fist on his desk. He goes home stressed and anxious. Joe has his dinner, watches TV for the evening and before bed as usual he takes his blood pressure. He knows his days was stressful as his blood pressure is reading a bit high and his body is tight and sore. Joe is not relaxed at all but goes to bed still stressed and tense about the day. He knows he won’t sleep well as he usually tosses and turns after a day like today. He can’t wait for Friday to come.
Jack’s alarm goes off at 6am on Monday morning and he turns it off right away. Jack stretches for a minute or two to wake up his muscles, then gets up and sits upright on the edge of the bed with his feet flat on the floor and hands on his lap. His back is not resting on anything to keep him in an alert but comfortable sitting position. Joe closes his eyes, clears his mind, and begins his morning breathing exercise. Jack takes a slow deep breath into his abdomen (not his chest) counting slowly to three as he does this. Jack then slowly releases his breath using the same 3 count method. He then allows his body to breathe naturally for a count of 3 then repeats this exercise for a total of three times. Jack then opens his eyes and gets up and begins his morning routine of having his shower and breakfast. Jack heads off to work feeling alert and ready to take on the day. Jack arrives at work feeling good about his day but ends feeling a lot of stress and as the day goes on, he feels more and more tense in his shoulders and frustration with his work. Jack recognizes this and decides to take a moment for some deep breathing at his desk but doesn’t want his coworkers to notice his eyes shut as he does not want anyone thinking he is sleeping on the job. Jack decides to focus his eyes on a blank computer screen and visualize a place that brings him calm. He decides to focus on his favourite fishing spot that he goes to where he feels most relaxed. Now Jack sits alert and upright in his office chair with his feet flat on the floor and hands on his lap. He makes sure his back in not resting on the back of the chair so he will be in an alert position. While focusing his thoughts on his fishing spot, he repeats his breathing exercise he did on the edge of the bed this morning (3 slow deep breaths into his abdomen and 3 slow breaths out with a count of 3 in between). Jack feels a bit better and able to return to his tasks at hand. Jack repeats this exercise again later in the day as he finds his stress increasing and is able to again refocus feeling better about moving on with his day. Jack heads home feeling okay about his stressful day and does not have tight shoulders and tenseness in his back as he heads home for the night. He has an awareness of his body and knows when he needs to take that break when his stress levels rise. He takes his blood pressure before dinner and it is relatively normal, which he realizes could be partly from his deep breathing as he knows deep breathing can help lower stress and blood pressure as it provides oxygen to his muscles and organs. Jack has his dinner, watches TV for the evening and goes to bed feeling good. Jack engages in this activity one last time before going to bed and has a good sleep. He also can’t wait for Friday to come.
Which scenario best describes you? If you fit into #1, why not give number 2 a try with the deep breathing throughout the day…you may find your day progresses with less tenseness in your shoulders and back and help you feel calmer, sleep better and overall feel more relaxed. The key is to recognize when you feel stressed and address it with some deep breathing right away.
When you take deep breaths into your abdomen and slowly release that breath out, you are bringing more oxygen to your body. One of the things this does is help oxygenate your muscles and organs. This can help calm the body when it is tense. The idea of clearing the mind or focusing on a “go to happy place” or memory is to help clear your mind for a few moments of the thoughts that are causing your stress or anxiety to rise. Taking slow deep breaths in this manner is also known to sometimes help decrease blood pressure. These are so many advantages to deep breathing that the list could go on and on. The scenario’s above show an example of how it could ideally work for someone who faces stress in their day. If you have high blood pressure or other health concerns already diagnosed by a doctor, this method may not help reduce your blood pressure or assist with other medical ailments, but it may be one small exercise that can help with your overall wellbeing. Give it a try!
Need some coaching on guided breathing? Find my information at twinlifecoaching.ca
This article is not intended to diagnosis or assist with any medical conditions. Always seek medical advice for any and all medical concerns, including high blood pressure and chronic stress.