The Rubber Band Effect
You have to move through an emotion before you can dump it. You can try to resist an uncomfortable emotion, but resistance only works temporarily because resistance involves work and it’s taxing – both physically and psychologically. We can only resist for so long before we need to rest. And when that moment finally arrives – when we finally tire and are no longer able to resist – we’re snapped back directly into the emotion we were pulling back from. Just like a rubber band.
Forcing the Cycle of Air
Now, when I recognize the swirlings of anxiety, I close my eyes and inhale the fullest breath I can possibly take. In through my nose, into the back side of my body and down into the sides of my lungs, all the way into my sex organs. On the next breath, I shrug my shoulders high to try and touch my earlobes while pushing air forcefully into my belly so that I can feel all of my insides being given a little more space for a second or two.
I keep repeating this for about one minute and focus solely on the feeling of the air being forcefully flushed through my body and muscles.
Sometimes I visualize that each breath is literally cleaning my body from the inside out, like a leaf blower, moving new good air into little forgotten crevices of my body, feeding hungry cells, while old stale air is pushed out through my side body and root.
Sound crazy? I don’t think so, but you might. All I know is that it works to alleviate moments of anxiety in daily life.
Pretty Good Odds
I’d estimate that about five percent of the time, this technique works to completely solve a problem I feel I’m facing. It slows my thinking and I am able to more clearly choose an alternate way of viewing a situation and in that moment, my anxiety is erased.
So what about the other ninety-five percent of the time? Well, my problem is still present when I stop focusing on the breathing, but it feels less intense. My anxiety level is always reduced – 100% of the time. No exceptions.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a flight from Indianapolis to Los Angeles and we’ve just started to feel some turbulence. Not enough to totally freak me out, but enough that the pilot has us buckling up.
Now normally I would be in more of a state of panic than I am now. Not visible panic necessarily, no one around me would notice anything different about my demeanor, but I would normally be succumbing to somber thoughts and graphic visuals of my mangled and burnt body slowly expiring at some crash site 35,000 feet below.
I could tense all my muscles and think doomed thoughts about the last moments I spent with my family this weekend and try to imagine the terror that a free fall from the sky would feel like. Or I can choose to breathe.
One full breath in , expanding everything. One breath out, all the way, so that there isn’t even a drop of air left in the bottom of my belly.
Giving it an Honest Chance
It’s simple advice and I don’t pretend that you’ve never heard it before. I just assume that a lot of people are like me in the way that I’d heard the advice and always thought, “Oh I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work for me.”
But in reality, I hadn’t really truly given it a chance. I’d just sucked in a couple of over exaggerated breaths in rapid succession without ever trying to slow down and focus on what I was actually doing.
When I began practicing yoga for real, not just as exercise but as a way of thinking and experiencing life, that’s when I started to understand how to really use this advice.
You may think you’ve tried deep breathing before, but until you stop and take the time to practice your technique and actually think about what you’re doing, it’s not really going to work. For me, it’s been about learning how to stay present while you’re doing it.
Like this post? Share it on Twitter
I send out guided meditations about once a week. Get them delivered to your inbox.