Deep breaths for when you’re feeling stressed

Lately, I’ve been finding myself getting stressed, anxious and panicky a lot faster than ever before in my life.

I’ve always been fairly even-keeled and good-tempered, but recently… wow. It doesn’t seem to take much to push me over the edge to frustration and anger these days.

I think there are clear reasons why. It feels like 2020 has been turning up the temperature and cooking us all alive for some time now.

Between our ineffective government, Coronavirus, the pressures of distance learning, isolation from friends and family members, not being able to travel, missing hugs and social gatherings, glaring racial inequalities and injustice, and now our loss of the Notorious RGB, I’m sure we’re all pretty close to snapping at any given moment.

Realizing this, I started seeing a counselor again for the first time in about 15 years. It’s only been a few weeks but our work together is already helping – she’s amazing. If you’ve never taken the time to talk to a therapist, I highly recommend it. They help you to dig deep and find out what you’re truly feeling and what’s really going on under the day-to-day stuff.

I also talk to my health coach every other week and she’s incredible, too. She encourages me to be curious, figure out why I’m doing (or not doing!) certain things and use my innate strengths and superpowers to get me over and around obstacles and challenges. Between those two professionals, I have a great support network.

Then there are my friends, who are the absolute best. The other day I was at my wit’s end, about to blow my stack. I texted them that I need to take a walk and asked if either of them would want to come along. Literally 15 minutes later, they both met me at our favorite walking place, the Alum Creek dam. We walked and talked for an hour and I felt SO much better by the end of it!

But there are plenty of times when I don’t have a therapy or coaching appointment and my friends aren’t available. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool or magical “chill pill” that could help me to relax and instantly feel less stressed, frustrated or angry? Guess what: there is one.

My new best friend: 4-7-8 breathing

I’ve heard about the value of meditation, yoga and deep breathing for years, but the universe keeps hitting me over the head with the breathing thing. For example, in ONE two-day period, both my health coach and my counselor suggested doing some deep breaths together. I see coincidences like this as something more; a sign of something I’m supposed to look at or learn. So I paid attention.

I noticed that I felt better both times I did 4-7-8 breathing or simply deep breaths. It acted as a natural, drug-free tranquilizer. I read a couple of articles that backed up what I experienced, and then I downloaded the Breathe app for my iPhone. Ever since, I’ve been making time daily to spend five minutes doing 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing or another of the methods in the Breathe app. They all feel like magic to me!

When you can go from a full-fledged stress response to calm and tranquil in five minutes, I don’t know what to call it but a miracle.

If you’re new to this kind of breathing, it’s super easy to find tools to help. Google “4-7-8 breathing” and you’ll find a plethora of assistance – I really like these animated GIFs. Or, just sit down and do it yourself: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat, over and over, for five minutes.

That’s it! It instantly calms your body and your mind. You may feel your shoulders descending from on high, or your back easing up, or your chest feeling more open and relaxed. Your heart may stop racing and calm. You may get a sense of mild euphoria, like all is right with the world. And if you do it before sleep, you may find yourself getting to sleep easier and experiencing better rest.

Your experience will be your own, but I can tell you that 4-7-8 breathing is now my daily best friend and will likely become yours as well. I am teaching this to my kiddo, my husband and anyone who will listen. It’s 2020, people. We need this!

So let me know if you are a 4-7-8 breather too, and what you think of it. I’m all ears in the comments below or over on Facebook. Breathe, hold, release! So easy and so marvelous.

About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat, snake and guinea pig mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.


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