ahhh, the breath. I just finished James Nestor's NY times bestselling book "Breath" a few days ago and I have been incorporating longer inhales and longer exhales to balance my nervous system. It works. It really works. And it works surprisingly quickly to shift the system from being in stress mode, or fight/flight/freeze, to calm and stable, or rest and digest. Or at least a little more stable than before... and if it's just 1 or 2 degrees more stable, remember that little hinges swing big doors and tiny pebbles cast big ripples. Let it be enough, little by little. A little more calm ripples out to more balanced emotions, less fear and anxiety, less tension in our bodies, better digestion and feelings of ease in our bellies, and a little more space to feel like we are okay in this moment.
In my health consulting practice I often encourage people to incorporate 5 conscious breaths before they begin their meals so that they better "rest and digest" their food. Pausing to give thanks for our food almost naturally does this for us. Lately, I've also been breathing more consciously while lying in bed before I wake up and before I go to sleep. And while sitting in my car, standing in line at the grocery store, and while I'm on my phone or computer... when I can remember, of course. Because we forget, but every time we forget it's an opportunity to remember. Having reminders helps and certainly having the book lying on the end table has been a great reminder every time I walk by. This doesn't have to be another "thing" we need to do but aren't. We're already doing enough and we're already breathing anyway so we can just start with our lives as they are... except instead of just breathing without realizing it, we shift our attention to realizing it.
I forget how many times James Nestor says we breathe a day, but it's a lot . If we can just remember to bring it to the forefront of our minds, to prioritize a handful of conscious breaths deep enough to watch our bellies expand on the inhale and come back in on the exhale, like a beautiful wave, we can shift our experiences from a state of overwhelm to a state of being able to handle things as they come. Little by little, we can shift from fear to faith.
Incorporating inhales to the count of 5, exhales to the count of 5, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more, could be the simplest, most helpful add-in you can do to calm an overstimulated nervous system. And I think we can all agree that with everything going on today, with the monstrosity of environmental inputs, feeling overstimulated, overwhelmed and exhausted is becoming the new norm. Thankfully, conscious breathing is a free, simple, easy, and powerful tool to flip the internal switch from "a lion is chasing me, I don't know what's going to happen, I'm afraid and anxious" to "I am ok in this moment. I am here in this now. I easily come back to my breath, my breath is my friend and ally. I am ok in this moment."
PS I HIGHLY recommend reading Breath.
Inhale through the nose 2, 3, 4, 5... exhale through the nose 2, 3, 4, 5... inhale through the nose 2, 3, 4, 5... exhale through the nose 2, 3, 4, 5... inhale.... exhale...