I’ve talked to so many people over the last week who are simply overwhelmed. The school year is just beginning and everyone is already tired. Going back to work on campus or sending your children to school both feel more fraught this year than usual. The decisions to be made are more complex and they have the potential to create both personal and public consequences. There are always unknowns at the start of the academic year, but this year, the list of unknowns is even longer than usual. It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?
I’ve spent a lot of time reminding people that there is much we can’t control right now, but we can take a moment to breathe. And while it seems simplistic and it doesn’t answer your questions or take something off your to-do list, pausing to take a few deep breaths can help you to manage what’s coming at you or to decide what’s most important for you to do next.
Here’s why it works.
“According to an article in Scientific American, ‘[w]hen you are feeling frightened, in pain, or tense and uncomfortable, your breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s various responses to stress, is now activated.’ Your breathing speeds up in response to outside stimuli to prepare your body for action. In the same way, when your breathing is shallow and tense, your body is ready for action even if there is no threat or danger. It’s tiring living on the precipice of constant awareness and action.
“Conversely, ‘[w]hen you are feeling calm and safe, at rest, or engaged in a pleasant social exchange, our breathing slows and deepens. You are under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system which produces a relaxing effect. (André, ‘Proper Breathing Brings Better Health.’) “*
In other words you have the ability to help your body relax simply by changing your breathing. We have the ability to help ourselves be calmer in stressful times by taking long, slow deep breaths. There’s much we can’t control but taking a deep breath or two or three can help our body calm down, which helps our mind to calm. It doesn’t make the decisions easier, the task list shorter, or the complex simple. But those breaths will help us handle it all more smoothly. Those breaths can ease the physical and mental wear and tear.
So when it all feels too much take a deep breath. Give yourself teeny breath breaks throughout the day and you’ll feel better at the end of a long day. Hang in there, everyone, and keep breathing!
*Paine, G. (2021).Sustaining Leadership: Finding Your Path Through Self-Care. Self-published. Amazon.
|Here’s link to a past blog post about breath. It includes a breathing meditation at the end. It’s only about five minutes. I hope it helps you.