image of neon sign that says And Breathe

We all have this amazing relaxation tool with us everywhere we go: our breathing. Most of the time we don’t even notice it. Breathing just happens automatically, thankfully, and we go about our business of life. Or is that busyness? Because we stay so busy, we may forget to take a moment or two to just stop. Be still and breathe.

It’s such a simple act, yet not always so easy to do. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to intentionally stop and breathe. Then there’s the resistance because we have so much to do, how can we possibly stop?! “I don’t have time to stop and be still! Are you kidding me? There are the kids, my partner, the laundry, my job, the house, the dog, the bills…I could go on and on.” And unfortunately, we do go on and on.

The weight of feeling overwhelmed and stressed sits on our heads and in our necks and our shoulders, weighing us down emotionally. When we feel it increasing, we think we need to move faster, do more. But in reality, when we are stressed, our body feels threatened by something it can’t deal with.

The body’s fight, flight, or freeze reaction then gets triggered, which ultimately leads to the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol keeps our blood sugar elevated and suppresses the immune system, all to help protect us and to help us deal with this perceived threat. In addition, the hormone adrenaline is secreted, which slows the digestion process and raises our pulse rate and blood pressure.

This safety response works great to help the body deal with imminent danger, like a tiger about to pounce. But what if the cycle of a perceived threat and the resulting stress doesn’t stop? Then we live in a sea of stress hormones and that is not a good thing. Our bodies don’t function as well. We don’t do our best thinking, digesting, sleeping, or performing in this chronic stress scenario. So it’s really important to reduce our stress levels every chance we get.

The quickest and easiest way to lower stress is to simply stop and take a breath with complete awareness. When we choose to turn our full and complete attention to the simple task of breathing, we invite calm. But what’s to notice about breathing?

We can become aware of the temperature of the air being inhaled. We can notice how far we feel the air move into the body. We can notice if the chest or belly rises as we inhale. We can notice that everything releases back down as we exhale. We can intentionally lengthen and deepen the breath.

Try this right now…Making sure to breathe slowly enough so that you don’t feel light-headed, take five slow, comfortably deep breaths while noticing where you feel the air in your body. Do you feel it in your nose? Your throat? Your chest? Give yourself the gift of five mindful breaths and then return to normal breathing, noticing how you feel.

How long did that take – maybe three minutes? Was that time well-spent? You tell me… Use this quick and easy method to release, relieve, and reduce stress anywhere and anytime. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!