Often when stress and anxiety set in, I tell myself just breathe. Learning and practicing various breathing exercises have been used as a means to reduce stress. When under stress, our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid. Slowing our breathing can slow the heart rate and give our brains some space to think.
Jennifer Tucker, in her book Breath as Prayer, she talks through the research around breathing exercises and reduced anxiety. The first thing we need to do is breathe in through our nose and out through our mouths. Then she walks through a few ways to structure our breathing such as box breathing. It is simply breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four, and hold for four counts.
Then she invites us to breathe in a phrase from scripture and then breathe out a phrase. It is as simple as an inhale saying, “You are close to the broken-hearted.” Then exhale saying, “You rescue crushed spirits.”
There are countless phrases that can be used. Pick a favorite scripture. Breathe it in and breathe is out. It allows us to soak in God’s word, God’s promises.
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12: 1-2 MSG).
I have found breath work to be valuable. I have also found that it take practice. It is best practiced outside of stressful or anxious moments. Telling myself to just breathe during stressful moments doesn’t work. My goal is to have one so ingrained in my being that it readily comes to me when I need it. This is going to require daily practice for some time. I am practicing the phrases with box breathing since it is easiest one for me to do.
Breath work has always been a challenge for me. I’m hoping this book and my new goal will allow me to add something to my toolbox for when life gets challenging. How about you? Do you use breathing techniques or tell yourself to just breathe? Share your experience here and bring life and breathe hope to others.