THIS IS MY MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST EFFECTIVE TEACHING! When we are in the midst of those difficult moments in life where our feels are overwhelming, if we try to avoid the feeling, it will either get louder, or come back to get us later. For empaths and HSPs, our sensitivity feels can easily and quickly turn into massive anxiety. The best way to get through our sensitivity feels is to FEEL THEM. Experience them, and let them pass. The way to do that is to breathe through them. We say it all the time. "Take a deep breath" or "Just breath" or "I need some fresh air." Anytime stress and anxiety gets at us, breath is the magic pill. Sadly, we don't practice it enough. And, we don't know HOW to do it right.
Anxiety & HSP/Empaths
Let me start by saying that on some level, being human means being an empath (unless you're a socio-path). But the level of empathy we feel varies from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. And being human is, well, sometimes extremely hard! And also, being human is, well, also extremely fulfilling. All that hard and fulfilling comes down to our feels and how we process them. I personally believe the goal is not to numb them or shut them up, but to work with them, appreciate them. when they are really hard, it is good to remember that "this too shall pass." And, when they are really great, it is vital to remember that also "this too shall pass." So what I'm saying is that I will never give advice to make our feelings go away, but I will help you learn how to BREATHE through them, feel them fully, and move through them. The pleasant and the unpleasant.
Anxiety is debilitating. For HSPs (highly sensitive people) who live with a hyper sensitive nervous system that heightens one or more of our five senses, anxiety cripples us almost instantaneously. For Empaths who live with a hyper sensitive hormonal system, anxiety is both our everyday norm and our worst nightmare. We've all been told to take medication, try yoga or meditation, or "just deal." And yes, all those things work. But as I outlined in How to REALLY Calm Your Nerves & Hormones (and what works best for HSPs & Empath Sensitivity) these methods work, but not so well for us HSPs and Empaths. We need relief in the moment that our nervous system is triggered. We need to soothe our hormones before they go all cray-cray. The way to do that is to STOP ANXIETY in its tracks instantaneously. In order to do that, we need OXYGEN. (see MINDFUL BREATHING - How Oxygen Cures Anxiety Instantly)
The absolute best and fastest way
to impact your nerves and hormones
and soothe sensitivity feels & anxiety
is through BREATH.
How To BREATHE Through It
Don't Be a Mouth Breather - Breathe Through Your BACK NOSE
A few years ago, Stranger Things was the must-see television show. I loved how the upside-down world symbolized all the dark and ugly things that happen inside our minds. It was actually a pretty good depiction of what the dark side of being a sensitive is like. What I loved most was when the character Eleven would insult people under her breath by calling them "mouth breathers." The way she said it was so subtle, but so very powerful. As a sort of master of jedi-mind-tricks, she knew that breathing was the key to mastering the mind, and mouth breathing was so NOT where it was at.
Mouth Breathing Triggers Stress Hormones
So often when I watch people take a deep breath, they will gulp in air and sigh it out. What no one taught us is that when we gulp air in through our mouths, we are activating adrenaline - a stress hormone. Try it. Take a gulp of air in through your mouth like you would if you just watched or heard something horrible. Do you feel that little tickle in your belly just below your ribs...like you went over a tickle hill in the car? That's adrenaline pushing into your system. You see, you just saw or heard something HORRID, so you instinctually gulped in air and that oxygen told your body to KICK INTO GEAR and deal with that horrid thing. Now, if we were actually dealing with a tragic emergency, we need that adrenaline. But in most cases, we don't need to fight some giant monster. In most cases of anxiety, adrenaline has been over-triggered over-often. We need to calm it. Mouth breathing won't do that for you.
Nose Breathing Triggers Calm Hormones
What Eleven knew in Stranger Things was that controlled breathing opens up a whole universe inside the brain. Just ask cats and dogs purr as they relax and we snore as we sleep, a subtle vibratory nose breath does wonders for calming and centering our brains and bodies.
Try this instead. Take a deep breath through the BACK of your nose. I don't want to hear your snot-boogers. I mean a back of the nose breath, almost like a snore. This is where the magic happens. The little rattle at the back of your nose-throat tickles nerves that tell your brain you want to be calm, centered, and focused. In order to get this kind of breath, you have to focus, you have to narrow your nasal passage, and you have to control your breathing. Those three things, focus, narrowing, and controlling all tell your brain to send hormones in your body that will focus, narrow and control yourself so you can focus, narrow and control your situation.
When we are stressed and our bodies are flooded with stress hormones, our heart rates increase, blood pressure increases, and our breathing gets faster. In some cases, we even hyperventilate. You can even create a stress response in your body by forcing a hyperventilation. If you huff and puff quick breaths through your mouth, you can activate all kinds of stress that leads to anxiety.
In order to calm everything and get the feelings to pass, we need to slow down our breath. It sounds so simple, but when we are stressed, slowing down feels very counter-intuitive. When you slow down your breath, everything else will slow down in your body, and then you will almost be able to see the circumstances around you in slow motion so that you can process and act more appropriately.
When we are anxious and nervous, breath gets erratic and frantic. We often end up holding our breath without even knowing it. I personally am not a fan of these breathing exercises that tell you to count and HOLD your breath. Breath is energy, so anytime we stop or hold our breath, we are stopping or pausing or halting the flow of energy. It's much better to even your breath, to steady-eddy the flow of energy.
Think of your breath like the oceans waves coming into the shore. You want the energy to be steady, even, and consistent, so that you can feel steady, even, and consistent. When you even your breath, it even starts to sound like the ocean, and that sound serves to calm everything and give you calming and clearing hormone feels. Do this by paying attention to the volume, tone, and sound of your breath. Make it feel and sound the same at all levels. Make the beginning of the breath feel the same as the middle and end of the breath. Make the transitions for breathing in to the breathing out feel seamless. THIS is how you breathe through things...like your breath, the things will seamlessly flow in their right and perfect ways.
Breathe With Your LUNGS (not your belly)
Okay, I'm gonna sound snotty here...bear with me. Whoever started the trend of so-called "belly-breath" needs to go back to high school biology and anatomy class. Your lungs are what process breath, and your lungs live inside your RIBS, not your belly. The only thing remotely close to your belly that has to do with breathing is your diaphragm. I totally believe in diaphragmatic breathing, but I believe it as a way to get your lungs to work better, and that is not through your belly.
I'll get off my snotty-horse now.
Try this. Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your ribs. If you focus on moving your hand on your ribs and keeping your hand on your belly still, you will notice that your breath is deeper, fuller, longer, slower, and more even (and you want to breathe through your nose more than your mouth)! Hmmm...isn't that all the things I listed above?
Breathe When You Don't Need To
This is all great information, except that when we get caught up in those crazy moments of life, I guarantee most of us *forget* to do any of this great stuff we learned. My answer to that is that you need to practice this breathing when you don't need it so that when you do need it, your body remembers and tells you to do it. So make this kind of breathing your everyday norm. Do it when you wake up. Do it to help you fall asleep. Do it while you wash your hands. Do it while you walk your dogs. Do it while you wash your dishes. Do it while you listen to your kids beg for the next greatest toy. Do it while you listen to your boss micromanaging your tasks. Do it while getting dressed - or undressed.
Just Do It.
I fully believe that if everyone in the world knew and practiced this breathing technique, we would have world peace. Please, if there is anything I teach you, this is the most important.
If you liked this post, you will LOVE the Focused Breathing Course which has video instruction to match. It's on sale for $10 (regularly $25) until April 30, 2021.
If you want personalized instruction on how to get YOUR body to breathe, I'm offering one-on-one Focused Breathing 30-minute Mentoring Sessions for half price $25 (regularly $50) through April 30, 2021.