It used to be that when I was in the midst of a crisis and someone told me, “Just breathe!” all bets were off. My outrage and defensiveness would immediately flare up in an internal tirade of:
How dare they??!!! They have NO idea what I’m going through right now! Have they EVER faced a major hurdle like the one I’m facing?
Older and a little wiser now, I would be grateful for the reminder.
In the heat of our worst moments, the suggestion from a well-meaning family member, friend or coworker to “Just breathe!” can feel patronizing. But it’s really the most helpful suggestion someone can make.
The reason is simple:What you do with your body directly correlates to your thoughts and emotions. Click To Tweet
Just Breathe! Really.
Breathing works to combat reactions to stress because our thoughts, emotions and physiology are linked. This means that what you do with your body directly correlates to your thoughts and emotions.
Recent studies have explored how many of our metaphors combine our physical experiences with our emotional ones – such as love as a feeling of warmth (a physical sensation), or a heart as cold as ice, or something conceptually confusing being “over our heads” or metaphorically “out of reach” of our physical bodies.
There are many more examples that show, through language, how we’ve intuited this link between our emotions, thoughts and physiology. We’ve all experienced how external influences affect our mindsets and our moods. Even minor physical imbalances like feeling hungry or dealing with a pulled muscle can turn our emotions toward cranky or irritable.
Putting the Mind-Body Connection to Work
When we’re really upset, our physiological stress response and emotional reactions run the show. Like when…
Our car breaks down. . .
The paycheck doesn’t arrive. . .
Our partner disappoints us. . . over. . . and over again.
So, what can we do in those moments, instead of letting our reactions get the better of us? How can we put our knowledge of the mind-body connection into practice?
The answer is the same, regardless of who gives it to you, whatever situation you’re in, and no matter the tone of voice: relax your body, and yes… just breathe.
Because research shows that physical ease leads to mental ease, and mental ease puts a damper on emotional reactivity. When we focus our attention on breathing while we let go of any tension we’re holding in our bodies, we can better regulate our emotions.
How to “Just Breathe”
Make it a priority to check-in with your body simply by asking yourself these two vital questions:
- Am I tense?
- Am I breathing fully?
Do this periodically throughout the day, and you will experience less stress and greater calm. You’ll discover that you can rely on your body to show up as a faithful friend who knows how to speak a sort of secret code to your mind.
In other words, when you pay attention to your body. . . your emotions will be calmer, and your mind will quiet down.
And what happens to your urge to yell, scream, cry and crumble?
It loses power over you because you’re bringing awareness to your body instead of reacting. You may still be standing in the center of a whirling crisis, but when you’re focused on staying calm and breathing, you’re far more likely to find the quiet place at the center.
Try it this week. When something upsets you, make it your first priority to relax your body and breathe. For some pointers, watch my video Relax Your Body and Breathe.
Please feel free to email me or let me know in the comments how it goes.
Take good care : )