A friend of mind called last week blindsided by the fact the she needed surgery. Her anxiety level was 13 on a scale of 1-10. “What should I do?” she asked.
Most of you whom I have treated can probably guess what my first answer was. Of course, calling a friend is right up there on the list of stress relievers when we are confronted with the unexpected. But there is something else that, when done properly, can shift the body out of the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ response into the soothing ‘rest and digest’ state. You have heard me say this before but here it is again:
Coming Back to the Breath
When you inhale, imagine a balloon inflating in the lower abdomen (below the navel). On the exhalation, imagine the balloon deflating, and consciously squeeze out the stale breath as the shoulders lower. On the next inhalation, do not lift the shoulders. Bring fresh air into the lower abdomen until it is as full as it can get. Let it go with a quiet, or not so quiet sigh, depending on your surroundings. Let the next inhalation happen naturally, keeping the shoulders relaxed. Continue breathing like this for a few breaths or even a few minutes if you can manage. Do not worry if your mind wanders. Simply notice when it does, and then bring your awareness back to your breath.
The more you ‘come back to the breath’, the more it has the chance of becoming a healthy habit—one that can ward off disease, reduce stress, and help you stay calm in whatever chaos is happening around you.