Stress is one of those things in life that we find ourselves developing a relationship with. Perhaps you can recall a time where you needed to really dig deep to deal with stress. Other times, we can relax and enjoy the flow of life because we have a handle on things. From the daily hurdles to the big jumps that can trip us up for weeks, I find that learning to pay attention to your breathing for a short period of time is a helpful skill to have in your toolbox. One problem seems to be that we forget to stop and take a break. A moment to pause and just check in with ourselves for this very purpose, to breathe.
It always blows my mind to think of how much goes on when we go about the automatic process of breathing. We take on average 12-20 breaths per minute, and in that process of inhale exhale, we don’t usually notice the work our lungs and respiratory system engage in. Guards at the front gate (nose hairs and cilia along air passages) keep out large particles from entering as we breath in through our nose. Our system also has boobytraps in the form of mucus along our trachea and bronchial tubes to deal with dust, bacteria, and viruses. Our lungs fill with air taking it to teeny-tiny balloon-like air sacs. These Alveoli (which we have over 300 million) are surrounded by a mesh of capillaries. Between the wall of Alveoli and these tiny blood vessels our body passes the oxygen we inhale to cells heading out for delivery to the rest of our body. At the same time cells coming back from their trip are passing carbon dioxide back to the Alveoli where we exhale it out to complete the cycle.
As a skill Deep Breathing simply begins with taking a moment to pause. We have these moments throughout our day. I find some of them in the “in-betweens” of activities in the day. Taking a moment after getting home from school or work. Or just before you get out of your car when arriving somewhere. These are opportunities to stop and breathe. Either for a few moments or if we have the time a couple of minutes. I encourage clients in these moments to close their eyes and focus on the process of inhale/exhale. Some clients simply focus on telling themselves “I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out.” We can also focus on the senses as we breathe. The way your chest or stomach pushes out on the inhale, then slowly drops or sinks as we exhale. The sound of the air flowing in through your nose and then out from your mouth. The feel of the cool air going in versus the warm air carrying your body heat out. This kind of focused breathing helps us concentrate less on the racing thoughts that may be causing stress. In a calm state we feel more in control with a calm mind to make good choices with whatever is going on in the moment.
Ozzie Garcia, M.A.,, LCPC is Masters Level Professional Counselor. He graduated from Benedictine University where open and diverse values were provided to help build a great foundation from empathy. He specialized in working with adults and young adults; bus also has experience working with adolescents. Areas of interest include depression, anxiety, grief, life adjustments, communications, relationships and coping skills. Ozzie has experience working at Linden Oaks where he provided services to individuals in In-patient and Outpatient settings for 7 years. Ozzie uses a wide variety of approaches from evidence based therapies including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Ozzie also incorporates Mindfulness and guided medications to help clients bring a better sense of awareness to their lives. “I believe that everyone has the capacity to change. I would be my honor to help you work through the changes life has given you and help you work towards a better place.”