Our lives are incredibly busy. From demands at work, stress at home, attempting to have a social life AND trying to take care of ourselves... sometimes it just seems that there are not enough hours in the day to get it all in! This is an incredibly overwhelming feeling, but the good news is: you're not alone. Despite all the stress we place on ourselves, our bodies are incredibly resilient to the stresses of our daily life, such as skipping meals because we’re too busy, sitting at a desk for hours at a time, or opting to watch Netflix instead of hitting the gym - all typical choices a person may make over the course of a week. (It’s not just me, right?) But where does that really leave you? What if you gave yourself a few minutes to check-in with yourself? How could your life improve if you could lessen the amount of stress you experience in your daily life?
On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. Do you think about your breathing on a regular basis? Perhaps the better question is how often do you forget to breathe?
Since I’ve been lifting weights for the last two years, my awareness about my breathing has become a priority for my daily health. Focusing on my breath during lifting weights got me thinking... I forget to breathe all the time! Both inside and outside of the gym. Don’t worry – it’s not in any real dire sense, like I’m going to pass out or send myself to the hospital, but in small, significant ways that add up.
I wish I could be more mindful about cultivating my meditation practice (woohoo! I’m up to five minutes without squirrel brain!), but there are very few times in my day where I’m consciously focused on something as simple as my breath.
Therefore, I decided to consciously pay attention to my breathing throughout the day, for an entire week, to see where it led me. To see if I could relieve some stress and tension from my life. Let me tell you, it’s harder than it sounds. So with this, here are my four takeaways that I found beneficial, and I encourage you to give them a try for yourself.
1. Create and Maintain a Morning Routine - I start each morning with a writing meditation. While doing this, I make sure that I get my coffee intake and sit down to eat breakfast. Not only do I make sure I am fueled for the day physically, but mentally I’ve taken time for myself thus creating intentions for the day. In addition, I choose an affirmation or mantra that will help me refocus on my intentions when I am having a particularly stressful time at work. If I can leave you with anything - it’s meditate and eat well to kick off your day. Don’t just take my word for it, experts and other professionals agree as well.
2. Take Five... (or sometimes 30) - During the day when I am not walking my dog or spending an hour at the gym, I am glued to my computer. It’s sad to say, but when I’m not at my computer, I’m on my phone checking emails and updates. I’m even that person that eats lunch at their desk because I’ve got so much to do and not enough time to do it. But guess what? This is not something to celebrate. Not only is this unsustainable, but it’s actually not good for you. Take a break. Eat lunch outside or with a co-worker. Stumped on a project or can’t figure out the language you need for that sensitive work email? Then go for a walk, meditate, or read a book. I promise it will make you feel happier, less stressed, and more connected to the present.
3. Stretch - We hear it all the time, “you need to stretch more!” I know that I should stretch before and after a workout, but here’s the truth. I’m guilty of not stretching enough. I try to do some stretches at my desk or even take a phone call while I am rolling around in happy baby. But the reason I have a hard time doing it is because I can’t slow down, be patient, and breathe through the pain. Anyone else been there? Not only does breathing help, but I actually come away with more energy. Don’t believe me? Try these 6 simple stretches at work.
4. Unplug… (especially before bed) - Step away from the screen. I repeat. Step away from your screen. You can’t let go of the day if you’re constantly checking your social media feed every six minutes. Instead, try cooking a meal, talking to your significant other, read a book, or pick up that crafting hobby you’ve been meaning to try (for me, it’s coloring and illustration). Relaxing and destressing before you hit the pillow is crucial to helping you get better sleep. I put my phone on airplane mode so that I can still use it as an alarm clock, but no one can interrupt my sleep.
Remember being conscious of your breath isn’t only about breathing in and out. Take the time to purposefully incorporate a few deep breaths over the course of your day to help relieve stress and connect with yourself. This will help you be present in the good and bad of your daily routine, while having techniques and tools to help get you through it. Life’s not always the easiest, but when you start paying more attention to your breathing, you might be as surprised as I was about what you learn about yourself.