Note: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice - it's real life advice and is what helps me.
Deep intentional breathing is essential, imperative, and non-negotiable. It is also free, it brings near-immediate relief to a sufferer, and it has been proven to have significant physical benefits, in addition to the magic it does for your mental well-being.
When I was growing up, my mother would quote Drew Barrymore in Ever After when she said, "just breathe." I regret to say that instead of listening to her, most of the time, I stifled an eye roll and just said "ok, Mom." But we all make mistakes and that is one of my biggest. After her passing (she literally took her last breath as I held her), I was thrown into a new darkness so deep, I thought there was no escape. It was my breath that saved me.
Turns out, I had been breathing wrong all along.
Deep intentional breathing is where your exhale is longer than your inhale.
This triggers a parasympathetic response in your nervous system that tells your brain to go from "fight-or-flight" to the safety of calm. For more information on the science behind it, the National Health Institute knows far better than I do.
There are many variations and ways to practice deep breathing. One of the simplest, that you can do anywhere with nothing more than your body, is to take a long slow deep breath in through your nose. As you inhale, take notice of your body and what happens to your belly, chest, nostrils, etc. Notice your breath and how it feels moving through your nose or mouth, how it fills your lungs, how the moving air sounds, what it looks like for your belly and chest to rise and fall with each breath. Can you feel the air push throughout your entire body? Exhale slowly. Keep noticing the sensations. And repeat until you feel calm.
I am so grateful for my breath. And yours.
A few quick thoughts:
Shallow breathing (like what you make happen when you suck in your stomach) causes anxiety.
One great way to take a few mindful deep breathing moments is to include a stuffed animal. Lay on your back and put a stuffed animal on your belly. Watch as it moves up and down. Feel the soft material on your fingers. Watch the direction of the fur as you glide your fingers across the plush material. Stuffed animals never were just for adults (ask the grandmas with teddy bear collections!). Stuffed animals also make great snugglers and I recommend them wholeheartedly, regardless of age or gender.
You got this.
You are not your struggles.
Your decide how your worth is calculated.
"What you are going through will soon be what you went through."
Life is tough - but so are you.
Look at how far you've come.
It is never too late to be who you want to be.
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