Often we find ourselves inundated with daily schedules, tasks, appointments and phone calls. It is easy for us to get lost in the 'mix' and feel this pressure to 'do something'. I often hear patients say that they are 'stressed out' or on the 'verge of a breakdown'. Now for some, the latter can be a mix of psychopathology, environmental stressors along with a life long battle with poor coping skills. But for most of us, it is the appearance that we 'must do' certain things or say 'yes' because our inner dialogue tells us we 'must'. It is easy for us to go about our daily life and follow this script, or feel as if we need to follow some path that we did not choose but rather is forced upon us. Having two small children and running a business, I too have found myself at times running around feeling stressed out. A month ago I decided to change something. I grew tired of feeling like I 'needed' to do so much. We all would like to be happy. But what is happiness? Everyone has a different definition and it is personal to each individual. But when we examine what a majority of people believe is happiness, it goes something like this: "I want more time for me and my family", "I want to be financially secure", "I don't want to worry so much" etc. What if I told you those things were within your reach? You would probably say this was too optimistic or that I don't understand the pressure that is upon you. While many of us have many different types of stressors and pressures due to circumstances that are out of our control, or simply just a product of having a family and needing to pay bills. We all have the capacity to 'breathe'. Most of us go about our days taking shallow breaths, panting about the day not realizing that this may be exacerbating our anxiety/worries/stress. One practice that I have started with daily for the past 30 days is integrating small 'spot drills' throughout my day in which I take 2-5 minutes to concentrate on my breath. Now some will think of this a little 'earthy crunchy', but I'm telling you it works. A month ago I picked up a book by Commander Mark Divine, a retired Navy Seal commander. The book is entitled "Kokoro Yoga". You can learn more about the book by going to http://sealfit.com/sealfit-events/warrior-yoga/. In the book Mark describes a process called 'box breathing', in which you count your breaths in a specific sequence: for a 4x4 box breathing exercise you simply- inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, then hold your breath (lungs empty) for 4 seconds. Now you can change that from 4 to any number within reason. By practicing this type of breathing you bring awareness to your breath and the present moment as well as activate your parasympathetic nervous system which in part helps decrease your heart rate and naturally relax you. There are many other exercises similar to this in the book, and a lot more on: mindfulness, meditation, visualization and of course Yoga. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or simply catch yourself taking shallow breaths....give this a try. The greatest thing about this practice is that it is easy to follow, easy to do, and doesn't require a prescription.
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