Yes. You read that right. Today I am going to teach you how ONE mindful breath can help alleviate your anxiety.
After 20+ years as a practitioner and teacher of mindfulness and meditation I would like to offer you the powerful tool I teach my clients of all ages in assisting with getting relief from the grip of anxiety.
Without going into all of the research and background of why this works, I will mention that recent empirical studies have shown that the practice mindfulness-meditation can reduce the activity in the brain related to stress-response and increase growth in other areas of the brain related to emotion regulation.
Before you balk, thinking you can’t possibly sit still to meditate I want to reassure you that there is a very easy and brief practice you can employ anywhere, anytime that can help you deal with stressful situations. And it only requires ONE mindful breath.
When you find yourself experiencing a swell of anxiety, sometimes all you need is to interrupt this experience by physically and mentally coming into the present moment with 100% attention. This bubble of extreme awareness created with one full, deep, long breath gives you the opportunity to ground and center your entire being and alleviate the spin-out of anxiety.
Here’s how it works:
1. Close your eyes and breathe in deep, long and full. . . and out.
Take a slow breath in to a count of 7, filling your lungs from the bottom all the way to your collar bone. Inhale into your lower abdomen and then feel your middle belly, chest and upper chest fill with air.
This immediately makes connection between mind and body. You can immediately feel a disconnect from the loop of stress with just this.
HOLD the breath in for a count of 7 following the guidance of #2 below all the while.
SLOWLY release the breath to the count of 7 as if blowing through a straw.
HOLD the breath out for a count of 7.
Relax your breath to natural breath…
2. As you are breathing, focus on your bodily sensations right in this moment and where you are.
Turn your focus to the physical sensations of your body. Notice tightness, twinges, tingles, temperature. Notice the sensation of your shirt tag on your neck, the feeling of the cushion under you and behind you. Try not to evaluate these sensations as “good” or “bad,” rather just notice the sensation itself.
If you can just hang out with these bodily sensations and just observe them, rather than allowing anxiety thinking to pull you away, you will be able to allow the energy of anxiety to move through you rather than spin you out.
3. Return to a natural breath and bring full attention to your natural breath.
Focus on the sensation of air coming in and out of your nostrils as you breathe. With soft curiosity, observe the feeling right at the tip of your nose. This keeps you in present moment as you stay focused. Here and now.
When observing the natural breath, there’s no need to deepen or slow your breath at all as we did in step 1. Just allow your body to breathe as it naturally will. You are now no longer the breather rather the observer of the breath.
4. Open your eyes and slowly move back into life.
After taking this ONE mindful breath, it is important to re-enter your tasks and interactions with this same mindfulness. Go slowly.
Open your eyes slowly. Notice your feet on the ground. Try to sustain this calmer, more grounded sensation. Be careful not to rush back into activity.
You can use the ONE mindful breath anywere, anytime because it is so brief and subtle.
5. Practice with regularity.
It is a practice that can be repeated throughout your day. You might practice it at the top of every hour or every time you hear a phone ring or any time.
My clients experience immediate relief doing this practice and you can too. If you feel you need some personalized coaching or instruction on facing and working with anxiety please contact me personally and I’ll be happy to assist you.