One Simple and Effective Way to Release Stress and Experience Mindfulness

by Aileen

girl lying in the grass

I confess, I LOVE the holiday season! For me it starts just before Halloween, my very favorite holiday, and then I delve into the bliss of gratitude and play around with images of fall leaves in my mind as I welcome in Thanksgiving.

Well now, those two have come and past for the year, and Christmas is on its way!

But the fact remains that many of us will go through varying degree of stress, since, well; the holidays aren’t always merry and bright.

So how do you preserve your inner well-being through this emotional and often stressful time?
Seriously, I’d like to know – so tell me in the comment section please

What I suggest is a simple, effective, small thing we can all do that will release stress, and help us rise above any inner unrest.

Breathe.

Yes, I said breathe. But, listen just a bit more here.

When I began studying singing with one of my greatest voice teachers we would spend the first 20 to 30 minutes breathing, deepening each breath, one deeper than the one before. I would lie on my back in the voice studio next to the piano and my teacher had her hands under my back and said “try it again. BREATHE.” Exasperated, I would say, “Diana, I’m breathing. I feel it.” She wouldn’t let me stand up until she felt me breathe into my back, which is when she felt my back expand, not until then was I allowed to stand up and begin the vocal exercises. I was usually a bit light headed at that point, because I just wasn’t accustomed to taking in so much air.

After our lesson Dina would often say, “Don’t you feel better after you sing?  It’s like everything in life is okay.
You know, it’s because we breathe deeply when we sing, and we release all of our emotional junk …ahhhh, let’s breathe some more
.

What is a deep breath?

Many people typically tend to breathe with shallow breaths. When we breathe deeply our shoulders will remain down and not hike up to our ears.  When we breathe deeply, we breathe from our bellies (you may have heard ‘breathe from your diaphragm’) our abdomen literally expands so much that our sides and backs expand at the same time. We become balloon like.

If you’ve been breathing shallow breaths your entire life, it may take a while before you’ll feel the full balloon action happening. Just keep working towards it.

To find out if you’re a shallow breather, Put your palms against your lower abdomen and blow out all the air. Now, take a big breath:

  • If your abdomen expands (balloon like) when you inhale, and air seems to flow in deeply, you’re on the right track to breathing deeply
  • If your abdomen scoops inward (like sucking in your tummy) that’s a shallow breath, and most likely your shoulders reach up towards your ears.

Now let’s begin:

Either sit in a chair or lie on your back when you do this. I recommend lying on the floor.

If you have someone with you who can watch that your shoulders do not rise, and can have their hand on your back to feel your back expand, that would be great! If you don’t, then bring your mind’s attention to your shoulders, your belly, your sides and your back and see if you can be your own guide.

Take five slow deep breaths.

The reason for 5 is that you give yourself 5 opportunities to have your deepest breath.

1. Try – Put your hands on around your waist and feel what happens as you inhale. Do you feel your sides expand, your stomachs expand and do you feel your back expand?

2. Play – Play with numbers. Try breathing in for a slow count of four, pause for two counts at the top of your inhale, and exhale for a slow count of four.
On each new breath try to increase by one count, so on breath cycle number two you inhale for a slow count of four, hold for a count of two  or three, and exhale for a slow count of five.
By your 5th breath you are inhaling for a slow count of nine, pause, and exhale for a slow count of nine. Do this within reason, if you feel light headed, stay with a smaller duration such as a four count. It may take you a while before you can build up to longer deeper breaths.

3. Focus – Be sure to focus just on your breath and the count. See if you can be free from excess wandering thoughts. Try visualizing the numbers as your count, give them a specific color. The more you can keep your mind focused on your breath, the less wandering thoughts you have, this strengthens your mindful state, and your ability to be completely present in the moment – connecting your mind and body.

4. Aware – Notice how you feel after your fifth breath, the one that you had a nice long count inhale, a pause, and a long count exhale.

Do you feel more centered, relaxed, and mindful of your body and thoughts?

Throughout the day, at any given moment, find moments to stop and give you the gift of 5 consecutive deep breaths.

This type of deep breathing will release a large amount of tension. It may make you feel a bit light headed if you’re not used to breathing deeply. And don’t be surprised if deep slow breaths bring tears to your eyes, it will release emotions. Let it flow out.

This type of breathing will activate a mindful state, and you’ll be more aware, more conscious, and more present in the moment. This state of mindfulness and acute awareness often lifts one up out of any negative emotions simply by bringing one’s attention to the present moment, and filling your awareness with the depth of just being in the here and now.

Feel free to do this for five or ten minutes if you wish. Or just work with the 5 deep breaths. It’s a great way to snap out of stress and other negative states of being.  If you really enjoy the therapeutic nature of breathing deeply, you may want to continue beyond just 5 breath cycles.

Remember, the reason for 5 breaths, is that you give yourself 5 opportunities to have your deepest breath.

 

Helpful Links:

Simple Stretches for Stress Relief 

Relieve Stress With a Simple Detox Bath

These links for more info on diaphragmatic breathing:

Harvard Health

Mayo Clinic

Dr. Weil

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor November 28, 2012

Aileen,

Thanks for the great advice! I love the idea of thinking that you take five breaths so you have five opportunities to take the deepest one. I never looked at it that way. The physiological benefits of deep breathing are huge, and no doubt getting centered is a great benefit as well. Nice job!

Something that helps me preserve my inner well-being through this emotional and often stressful time (because you asked for comments) is staying present and being mindful of the present. This also centers a person, and removes the stress associated with focusing on the past or the future (especially the future when it comes to the holidays and thoughts of all the things we need to get done). This really has helped me. I hope it helps you too, if you haven’t tried it already! :) Thanks Aileen!
Victor´s last [type] ..The Voice Within | VictorSchueller.com

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Aileen December 4, 2012

“Being mindful of the present” – great choice!!!!

It can be easy to loose our center, our focus and once chaos starts it just picks up momentum. So being mindful of the present is a GREAT choice.

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Jodi Chapman November 29, 2012

This is such a wonderful reminder for me. My default setting is definitely to take shallow breaths. And it’s only when I’m conscious of it that I remember to breathe deeply. I truly appreciate this reminder – it’s so important. :)
Jodi Chapman´s last [type] ..Ready to Create Your Incredible Life?

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Aileen December 4, 2012

Hi Jodi, My default is also shallow breaths. So when I take a deep breath, I really feel it! The positive side of having the natural tenancy of shallow breathing is that it allows for a profound sensation of realization when we exhale and breathe deeply.

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Betsy/Zen Mama November 29, 2012

Aileen,
As I read your post I realized I was holding my breath and started breathing more deeply!! Thank you for this new breathing method. I haven’t seen this one. This is a great method and easy to do. I try do the 4-7-8 Yoga breathing every day. It does make me feel better everyday almost like I’ve gotten a five minute cat nap.
Thanks so much!!
Betsy/Zen Mama´s last [type] ..ZEN TIPS, A Book Of Daily Meditations From The Zen Mama

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Aileen December 4, 2012

I do like the 4-7-8 Yoga breathing technique too. That’s one the Dr Weil recommends I believe. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8.
It can feel like a nice short nap :)
Thanks for stopping by :)

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Tess The Bold Life November 29, 2012

Hi Aileen,

Happy holidays! My life was so busy with kids and Christmas that when they left home I stopped celebrating in the normal way. Eventually they began celebrating with their own families so we stopped putting up a tree. We also stopped buying gifts except for our grandchildren.

Today I listen to holiday music, have an amaryllis bulb growing, and some candles in my home. I like to spend the rest of my time and energy focusing on love.

We go back to MI for my grandson Henri’s birthday Dec. 18 so we still get to see everyone in a festive and fun way.

I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone. It just works for Hubs and I.

This year I’m following Leo Babauta’s don’t purchase anything extra from Thanksgiving to Christmas plan. I catch myself wanting stuff I don’t need. I fell in love with some Christmas cards (I still send them) and instead of purchasing them I’m going to make my own. I just happened to have everything I need to do so;)

I would say to others to have a loving intention for everything they do over the holiday season. That out to relieve some stress;) xoox

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Aileen December 4, 2012

Wow Tess, how neat!
I still get into the festivities and enjoy finding gifts for family, but I can see how refreshing and lovely your way of celebrating is. I haven’t gone without a Christmas tree in …. hmmm, not sure how long. It is time consuming for sure – maybe one day I’ll try your simplified way of celebrating. It does sound lovely!
Thank you for sharing!!

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Cathy Taughinbaugh November 29, 2012

Hi Aileen,

Thanks for the tips on deep breathing. I do practice that at my yoga class and I do feel the difference in how much more calm I feel.

I love Christmas as well and just enjoy spending the time with my children. They are all grown up, but no one is married as of yet, so I still have them to myself for Christmas. I am savoring this time, because I know it will change in the future when they have families of their own. I try to keep the holidays as low key as possible. We exchange gifts, but we keep things casual and I think it makes everyone more relaxed.

It is important to be calm this holiday season, so thank you for the reminder!
Cathy Taughinbaugh´s last [type] ..Journey of Hope: Meet Neseret Bemient

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Aileen December 4, 2012

It is nice to have a relaxing Christmas as opposed to the hustle. Such a lovely spot to be in :)

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David Stevens November 29, 2012

Thankyou Aileen,
Many (including me) don’t breathe to our optimum. Yet it’s the most important thing to do…thankyou for putting this out there
be good to yourself
David
David Stevens´s last [type] ..Living Life Today – What’s on Your list?

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Aileen December 4, 2012

Thanks for stopping by David :)

Lets make today a breathing day!

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