Who amongst us is NOT stressed? Day-to-day life can be demanding between school, work, family, etc. Have you ever seen anyone looking Zen during their daily commute? Whether you’re sitting in traffic or fighting your way into a crowded subway car, just getting to work can set your stress levels on overdrive before you even get there. Add to that the current state of the world. So many people have sadly died due to this horrific pandemic, along with millions of people who have lost their jobs and businesses. Further, the continued lock down of many communities across this nation has significantly impacted people mentally, physically and emotionally. I think we are collectively looking for ways to find some peace and calm in our lives.
I always love the idea of being one of those people who could mediate and do yoga for hours. I see all these yoga teachers who just scream Zen existence with their gentle movements and soft, soothing voices. When I do actually take a yoga class, I feel amazing after, but I have a really hard time relaxing and quieting the mind. Don’t even get me started on trying to meditate! Disaster! I am the typical New Yorker who only knows how to go at 100mph in everything I do – slowing down is just not in my vocabulary! I can’t lie, there is a big part of me that does love my “New Yorkness” and would not want to be any other way (I know you non-New Yorkers think we are all insane…and even we know we are a little crazy…), however being on constant overdrive does wear on the body.
Fortunately, there are some, simple ways I have found to find my version of Zen, even if only for a New York minute. The power of breath is an amazing thing. I have heard this for years and in general just pooh-poohed it, but then I started reading some stuff by Dr. Andrew Weil and he inspired me to give it a shot. He recommended the following simple 4-7-8 breathing exercise:
· Inhale for 4 counts
· Hold breath for 7 counts
· Exhale fully for 8 counts (squeeze out as much of the air in your lungs that you can!)
I started out by repeating this 4 times every morning and gradually increased it to 10 times. I must admit, given the fact that my daily routine has changed so drastically, as I am no longer getting up and going to work, I have slacked a bit on this. However, I do find taking that few minutes a day to just breathe, does really calm me before I start my day.
It is also something I can do anytime I need to just take that moment for myself. You know, the moment my husband (who is normally NEVER home), decides to critic how I do something and give his “helpful” suggestions on how I could do something, I always do, better…..or when my Zoom conference call loses its audio right in the middle of a nutrition consultation. We are all adjusting to our new “normal.”
Taking these few minutes of conscious breathing, when I need them, have now become a part of my daily routine. And the great thing about it is you can do it anywhere! Even if you are one of those people who are still going into work and you hit that frustration point - instead of sitting there and fuming, go to the bathroom for a few minutes and just breathe. Now I will admit, I have had those bad days where I literally have been in that bathroom 10 times a day and I was sure my colleagues must think I have the tiniest bladder on the planet, but it does work! And I do think it trains your body to more easily get to that relaxed state when you most need it.
We don’t have control over a lot of things, but there are small things we can do that really do provide an incredible benefit. Hey if this crazy New Yorker can do it, so can you!
See below links for more information on stress reduction through conscious breathing and the impact of stress on the body: