When’s a good time to breathe? All the time. End of article.
Okay, that’s true, but I’m specifically talking about deep breathing. Almost Lamaze class breathing, but you don’t need a baby’s head to be popping out of your nethers to do it.
I know that saying “Just Breathe” is about the most useless advice in the history of the world. But when you really breathe, in a deep and focused way, it’s honestly amazing.
First, here’s a quick breakdown on the kind of breathing I’m talking about.
A Simple Breathing Exercise
- Put one hand on your stomach, just underneath your rib cage. You aren’t fat, so don’t worry about it.
- Then, inhale slowly through your nose. See if you can get that part of your stomach to move out with your breath.
- Lastly, breathe slow. Count to four in your head as you breathe in, and breathe out on a count of four.
Did you do it? Did you? Or did you just think about doing it and just assume you get my drift (that’s probably what I would do, so no judgement here).
Either way, when you take a moment to breathe deeply and slowly into that area of your stomach, you’ll start to feel a change. Your muscles relax. Swirling thoughts start to slow. And you might feel a touch calmer than before.
All that in 30 seconds of deep breathing!
So, here are the best times to put your new found breath abilities into action:
1. Dentist Appointments
The dentist is not a fun place. I know, you’re shocked by such a hot take, but a dental exam is a recipe for stress. To help get through it - breathe.
Since your mouth will be occupied with various scrape-y and squirty things (to use the technical terms), it’s a great opportunity to practice breathing through your nose. So, when the hygienist gets out the metal pick, just close your eyes and keep breathing on a count of 4. It’ll help relax your body and give yourself something to focus on while a stranger is jabbing at your gums.
2. The DMV
It’s a cliche to say that the DMV is the fourth circle of hell, but it’s true. Waiting in a poorly lit room with a bunch of other angry people will leave you with a bad headache and an even worse mood.
So, try to put aside your fantasies of strangling the chatty teenager next to you and focus on your breath. As you breathe, try to relax the muscles around your face, jaw, and shoulders. You may not feel complete relief, but relaxing those muscles will help you avoid a headache and avoid the tears of the 16 year old denied their license for the 3rd time.
If you have a family that lovingly celebrates Thanksgiving with no stress - I hate you. Just kidding. I think you’re great, but quit reading this part because it does not apply.
For the rest of us, large family gatherings, like Thanksgiving, can bring out our most anxious thoughts. Who’s going to fight this year? Who will criticize my life choices? Which person will bring up a story about Mexican men smuggling drugs in the bodies of dead babies over dinner? In case you were curious, the answer to the last question was: my dad. Thanks for playing.
Pressure to “behave” or stay calm during hectic situations will cause you physical and mental pains. So, whenever someone says something aggravating or inappropriate - breathe. Take a slow, deep breath. Trust me, your family won’t even notice what you’re doing. But it will give you a moment to just focus on yourself and relieve some of the physical tension in your body.
I can’t promise breathing will make the night a huge success, but you will get through it without going insane.
4. Job Interviews
You’ve prepared for hours, have a great resume, and practiced all the answers to those “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”- types of questions. Then, you walk into the office, squeak out your name, and wonder why your voice went up five octaves.
It’s because you’re not breathing! When the muscles around your voice box get tight (from stress in this case), it can change the pitch of your voice. So, even though you naturally sound more like Jessica Rabbit, you become Minnie Mouse whenever your nerves hit.
To avoid this, do a quick deep breathing exercise in the waiting room. Breathe in and out on a count of 4. Do it about 5 times. You might still feel nervous, but your muscles will relax and you should have greater control of your speech.
5. In Bed
If you blissfully drift off into a deep slumber every night - I hate you. And I really mean it this time.
Now, if you spend your bedtime hours going over to-do lists for the next two months or randomly replay a moment in 9th grade where you ran into the mall bathroom to cry because the boy you liked was holding hands with a blue haired girl - breathing can help you.
I find that just counting your breaths, though helpful in nervous situations like job interviews, does not help me at night. Instead, I like to breathe and take inventory of my body.
That doesn’t mean getting out a checklist and making sure both of my boobs are still hanging around. It means checking in with how each major body part feels. Starting with my forehead - is there tension? If there is, I try to let that tension release.
Next, my jaw: Is my jaw still tight from reading the latest of our abhorrent news cycle? I try to let that tension release.
Next, throat: Is it tight? If so, I try to let that tension release.
I bet my boring, yet soothing repetition here is already making you feel sleepy.
Even if you don’t fall asleep right away, it does calm your body and mind and should get you to zzz’s town a lot faster.
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