Updated: Oct 3, 2019
On Monday this week, I was at home with my kids. My twin toddlers were not crying, or throwing a tantrum, or needing attention. Instead they were happily playing by themselves and content to do whatever they were doing. I’ve had a day filled with walks, playgroup and social activities, and I was content with the day. I couldn’t help but notice that even though there was nothing stressful happening and everything was “good in the world” I felt an undercurrent of anxiety and stress. I wasn’t sure why so I took a minute to check-in with my body, and I noticed that I was only breathing from my chest. Wait – is there a right and wrong way of breathing? Yes – unfortunately a lot of adults (and children, and teenagers too) don’t breathe properly. We are supposed to breathe from our diaphragm rather than from our chest.
Do this quick test now. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. As you breathe in, notice which hand moves outward – the one on your chest or your belly? As you inhale, the hand on your belly is the one that needs to move. As you breathe out, notice which hand moves back to your body – the one on your chest or your belly? As you exhale, the hand on your belly is the one that needs to move. Imagine that your belly is a balloon that fills up with air as you inhale, and deflate as you exhale.
Even if everything is good with your life, and nothing is stressful going on, you can feel stressed if you are not breathing properly. The brain relies on numerous signals from the body and the environment to figure out whether there is any threat or danger that you need to fight or fly away from. Even if there is no threat in the environment (or crying babies/toddlers/hungry kids), the brain may still think that you are in “danger” because you are not breathing deeply. There is a reason why all stress management or anxiety strategies all focus on breathing technique first. This is also one of the reasons why physical exercises can help significantly with low to moderate level of depression and anxiety disorders. Physical exercises force you to breathe from your diaphragm.
Of course, changing the way you breathe is not going to solve all the problems and challenges of motherhood and life, in general. But it’s incredible how it is a simple strategy that can help you cope and feel better.
Want to learn more about how to use your breath to help you relax? Come to an Empowermums workshop! Check out your upcoming events: