by Diana Lang
After one of my previous posts "Stress reduction starts with a breath," I received many responses from people saying that, while they realized the importance of conscious breathing in their daily lives, they had difficulty remembering to do it.
We would all like to remember to take deep, oxygen-filled breaths many times in a day, but we are often so caught up in the moment--busy at work, busy with children, busy with life--that we just forget to. The big whirl of life is all-involving, all-consuming, and barely leaves us time for dinner, let alone time to take a deep breath. When we are stressed, it can almost seem ridiculous to take a deep breath when compared to the magnitude of the situation in which we find ourselves. Breathing doesn't seem like it can make much of a difference when we're up to our ears in worries.
But it does make a difference.
Conscious and deep breathing has a very different impact on the body than unconscious and automatic breathing. When we breathe consciously, a whole series of chemical, hormonal, and physical reactions occur. Simply put, more oxygen helps the body function better. Multiple studies have shown that oxygenation of the body calms the stress response. It also lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and calms the mind. In this naturally improved state, we can make better critical decisions, and experience more organized brain function and a higher level of concentration.
Imagine you are late for a meeting and in the middle of a traffic jam. You know you are going to be late. There's really nothing you can do except get there safely. This is a good time to breathe. Just lighten your foot on the gas pedal, relax your shoulders, and take a long, deep breath. Right away you will notice a change in your body and the way your hands are gripping the steering wheel. You realize that you'll get there when you get there, and that tailgating or honking isn't going to make the situation any better or get you there any faster. You find yourself slowing down. Then you take another deep breath, and before you know it you realize that your mind has moved from racing to relaxing. This is the power of the breath. If you went into that meeting upset, late, and jangled, it could have had a very different outcome than the one where you took a moment to collect yourself with a breath.
Here is my favorite tool to remember to breathe consciously: blue dots.
At the office supply store, you can buy little sticky blue dots that are usually used for organizing files. Buy a sheet of them and put them all around your house, your office, and your car.
Every time you see a blue dot it means: TAKE A DEEP BREATH.
Wherever I spend a lot of time, I put a blue dot. I put them on my computer, my telephone, my bathroom mirror, and on the rearview mirror in my car. People ask me about them sometimes. "Why is there a blue dot on your cell phone?" When I tell them about my "blue dot game" it becomes a reminder to me and them. Often they start putting blue dots on their things, too, and now their blue dots remind me to breathe.
A conscious breath can change the whole outcome of your day. It is definitely worth remembering. Your deep cleansing breath is just one blue dot away!
Editor's note: Diana Lang's column appears on Mondays. For more information on Lang, the relaxation expert at StrategiesforNurseManagers.com, please visit her Web site at www.dianalang.com.