Usually, when Vanessa is stressed, she tends to breathe very superficially. The tension she felt caused her breathing to become very shallow — it’s as if it got stuck in her throat.
Sometimes she even found it hard to take a breath at all.
Mostly it happened at work where she lived through non-stop pressure. It cropped up the other day when she crossed paths with the office bully.
“You are doing it wrong, that is not the way to keep your files,” the bully bellowed. “Do it the way I do it.”
Vanessa knew what she was doing. After all, she is a senior staff member who gets high grades every annual review. She was a top performer.
On the other hand, the bully coworker routinely performs poorly — and everyone knew it but was too afraid to say it openly.
It was apparent the bully was trying to belittle Vanessa in a lame attempt to undermine her.
Just the night before, Vanessa had practiced breathing. She laid down on her bed and placed one hand on her belly and the other on her chest.
She expanded her belly, then swelled the sides of her body followed by her chest. She held it for a few seconds and exhaled. First, from her chest, then the sides of her body and lastly, she released from her belly.
She did this nightly for a few weeks — a good start.
At first, it was difficult for her to feel all the sensations. Then she channeled the voice of her life coach…
“It’s okay. Just take a breath. And another and another.”
Vanessa understood that with practice and a little time she could achieve the benefits of a beautiful deep breath.
Although Vanessa felt calm last night when she was trying it out, she was anything but calm as she faced off with the bully.
This encounter was her first test, and she was about to fail. Vanessa was seconds away from exploding. All that practice for nothing, and then.
Her mind’s eye saw the face of her life coach.
She whispered to Vanessa as if she was actually there, “The best thing about the breath is that is always with you.”
When we slow down the breath, we slow down the mind
Right at that moment, it kicked in. Vanessa observed her breathing. It was fast. Her inner state revealed itself. Almost immediately, she realized she was allowing herself to be stirred up.
Take a deep breath
Gradually, Vanessa shifted her attention. She observed her breath — it was not deep. She took in the air.
Instead of erupting with anger, Vanessa breathed in deeply through her nose and counted to seven. As she breathed out, she also counted. In a flash, she felt her mind slow down.
Vanessa focused on the bully and continued to breathe. She felt stable; her feet and core settled in and became more grounded.
Rather than have a confrontation, Vanessa decided to change the current of the conversation, “I am late for a meeting. I will give your suggestions some thought and get back to you. Is that okay?”
On the spot, the bully shrunk down. Her face drained of color. She was forced to accept that there would not be a battle today.
When emotions run high, just take a deep breath
Vanessa credits nasal breathing for making her more resilient to stress. Although she doesn’t like to get scientific, she had to admit that taking deep breaths reduced her heart rate and calmed her nervous system.
“Breathing through my nose relaxes me. It quiets my mind. I can put some space between me and my feelings. I tell myself, just take a breath. I can breathe my way to calm.”