This was written by Jen Waak, who pens a monthly health column for The Solopreneur Life.
How often do you have a project due or client presentation coming up, and the closer you get to the deadline, the more stupid you become? You might start feeling lethargic, have trouble concentrating, and possibly even get an upset stomach. Perhaps you get a headache or become cranky.
Believe it or not, those symptoms might be caused by improper breathing. Yep. Breathing. Remember how your Mom always told you to take a deep breath when you got upset? Turns out, she was on to something.
At 22,000 breaths a day, breathing is one of the most automatic things we do. And, a lot of us (myself included) are really BAD at it—10% of Americans suffer from low-level, chronic hyperventilation. Then, when we are put in a stressful situation—a deadline, bad day at work, fight with a significant other—the symptoms become more pronounced.
Fortunately, breathing, like most things in life, is a trainable skill. Here is a great drill to improve breathing habits and/or calm yourself down.
1. Sit comfortably—hold a nice, tall posture as you do this
2. Place one hand, palm down, on your upper chest
3. Place your other hand, also palm down, on your abdomen
4. Breathe. If you are breathing correctly:
• Lower hand moves first
• Lower hand moves significantly more than your upper hand
• Upper hand moves outward slightly, NOT up toward the shoulders
If you are breathing correctly, CONGRATULATIONS! You can use this drill as a calming exercise. By stopping to breathe correctly during a stressful time, you will take time to focus on something away from the problem, calm yourself down, and eliminate your anxiety.
If you are NOT breathing correctly, you need to practice the drill. Visualize filling up your lungs, starting at the bottom, so your hands move as identified above. Initially, you may only be able to do this for a couple of breaths, but I’d like you to work up to 30-40 consecutive breaths, twice a day. By owning this valuable skill, you will reduce overall anxiety levels and eliminate a host of other low-grade symptoms.