After a long day you are lying in bed, ready for that long-awaited and highly needed rest. Then the thoughts flood in. What if my boss does not like my contribution, should I have spoken up, where did I put my wallet, did I study enough for that test, what should I buy for my best friend’s birthday ...
There are an endless number of "what if's" and "should have's" that crowd our minds, all with one goal in mind – to keep you awake and stressed.
So what now? Tossing and turning does not help, getting up and watching TV will only make you more awake, and you are in no mood to meditate.
As the Dean of Columbia University, Herbert Hawkes said: “Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision”.
In other words, worrying is trying to predict possible future scenarios. And unless you are a fortune-teller, people cannot predict what is going to happen.
When I talk to my clients about breathing techniques, they usually answer me with a look of disbelief. What most people fail to see is that worry is not only a never-ending string of thoughts, it also has a physiological component.
With excessive worry, your mind and body may go into overdrive and this may lead to anxiety and panic attacks. Worry is a result of unresolved stress and makes your body react in the same way as it would to physical danger, a phenomenon known as the "fight or flight response".
In other words, your body is preparing itself for physical action resulting in tensing of the muscles, increased heart rate and shallow breathing. When this tension is not released, it may result in headaches, back pain, digestive system problems, constipation, and high blood pressure.
A prolonged level of stress even weakens your immune system resulting in all kinds of illnesses and diseases.
Enough about the side effects of worry, how about the breathing techniques? Remember that worry, like stress, triggers physiological reactions in the body. Regulating our breath stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which in turn influences many biochemical reactions in the body.
One way mindful breathing helps to lower your stress level is by releasing endorphins, the pleasure-producing hormones, and lowering anxiety-provoking brain chemicals such as adrenaline, the stress hormone. Stated simply, by controlling the way you breathe, you will feel more calm and relaxed.
The truth is that breathing techniques can help anyone control their worrying and feelings of anxiety. Give these techniques a chance. Try it for a week and practice them twice a day.
By doing one of these techniques when you are not worrying, you will transform the technique into a skill which you will have available when you do worry. They will not take up that much time, so the excuse "I don’t have time" does not work.
Try this technique first as it will teach you how to breathe properly. Trying to use breathing exercises for relaxation purposes without the proper posture and breathing skill will not be as effective.
Repeat this four or five times as you will feel an almost immediate relaxation response.
Repeat for a couple of minutes until you feel the tension fade.