I’m just like most other women – most other moms, especially. I have three kids ages 13, 6 and 3 months. I have my own business. I have family, errands, obligations, deadlines, appointments, etc. Life in 2018, even when we purposefully slow it down, can still be pretty hectic. If you add something like anxiety or Aspergers into the mix, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Everyone experiences overwhelm in some form or another, at some point in time. It feels different for each of us and, for me, it feels heavy. I often feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe. The more I try to breathe, the harder it becomes. I’ve come closer to panic attacks – often without an obvious triggering reason – more times since I gave birth than I have in the years before combined.
Intentional breathing has been saving me day by day.
The great thing about intentional breathing is that you don’t have to be anywhere quiet or do anything special in order to do it. No need for silence, a special seat, a recording, a yoga mat – you can simply be in a moment where you recognize you need it and start. So far, I have done intentional breathing while:
- cooking dinner
- in the shower
- taking my son to school
- sitting in a doctor’s office
- doing the dishes
- and other little stolen moments in time here and there.
It’s great, of course, to be able to stop and focus entirely on the process but my favorite part of intentional breathing is how easy it is to incorporate it into our regular, daily, hectic lives. When the baby is crying, the kids need to be fed, and you have a deadline coming up for work, it’s hard to convince yourself to stop and spend twenty minutes in deep meditation. It’s even harder to do those types of exercises every time you need it if you have anxiety like I do. I mean, I wish I could spend all day meditating, but I’m pretty sure my family would riot. Or starve. Quite possibly both.
Instead, when I’m in a moment where I feel my stress and anxiety rising I do the following steps:
1. I focus on my breath and just feel it for a minute. Is it fast or slow? Am I breathing hard? What does it feel like physically and emotionally? Sometimes, I just focus on it and be with my breath for a few. Sometimes, this is enough to bring me back to center. If not, I move on to step two.
2. I put one hand on my heart/chest and another on my abdomen and feel my body move with each breath. Breathe 3-5 times, focusing on how it feels.
3. I intentionally slow my breathing to slower, deep breaths, focusing on each one, breathing 3-5 times.
When you do this exercise, it activates your parasympathetic nervous system. This triggers your body’s relaxation response, depresses your heart rate, lowers blood pressure and respiration, and allows your body to repare and restore. In modern society, many of us are often in ‘fight or flight’ mode due to our levels of everyday stress and our PNS isn’t activated as often as it should be. Intentional breathing, even if it’s just a few minutes while waiting for the chicken to finish baking, helps us activate that and bring more awareness to our bodies.
It’s definitely been helping me keep my wits about me in this new life as a mom of three!
Let me know in the comments how intentional breathing, or other stress-reducing exercises, works for you!
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