Stress has a very large impact on us as humans. For some it triggers different things to happen such as losing sleep or gaining weight or picking up a destructive habit, and for others it can create good things like the drive to exercise. Ultimately stress can effect us in every aspect, physically and mentally, and sadly the effects are often times negative.
I practice a few things to keep my mind healthy along with my body, meditation being one of those things. A very simple, yet difficult (as meditation is not easy), practice for meditation is sitting with good posture and turning off my mind from rambling thoughts (as best as I can) and connecting my mind to my body and my soul. Feeling my feet and my hands, and most importantly, my breath. Feeling the air fill my lungs (inspiration), feeling my lungs themselves, and exhaling the harmful byproducts created by my body (expiration). The reason myself and many others refer to it as a practice is because it is challenging and requires patience and time to get into a peaceful state, it also takes will power at times.
I was introduced to ROMWOD by a friend for mobility reasons, and if you don’t know of it, it stands for Range of Motion Workout of the Day. To describe it briefly, it is like yoga, stretching, and meditation all in one. Sometimes during the programming they guide you through controlled breathing practices where you breath in for a count and exhale for a count, and sometimes even hold for a count with full or empty lungs… rather intense!
For the majority of my life I have been exceptionally anxiety free, my father and being raised Christian helped greatly in understanding some things in life are out of our control and in God’s hands. So, while going through a difficult part of my life some time ago I had fallen away from meditation and also ROMWOD, and after a particularly difficult day I decided taking some time for stretching and meditation was much needed. It just so happened that the days program included breathing practice at the end.
The Eye Opener
This was when I truly understood the effects of stress and anxiety. For one thing I remember my body was extremely tight and the stretches were difficult, but what was frightening was the breathing exercises brought upon me a deep feeling of panic; as I was supposed to inhale slowly, hold and then exhale slowly and hold, I wasn’t capable of doing it. My body was resisting what my mind was telling it to do. As I would exhale all of the air in my lungs panic would fill my stomach and my body would immediately inhale as almost against my will. Knowing that this disharmony could not be a healthy relationship I spent a great deal of time right then and there trying to get my mind and body to be on the same terms. I can remember so vividly how difficult it was, but I remained determined and patient with myself until I regained my bodies trust. Afterwards, I laid down on the ground (as the program would suggest at the end for a “rebound”) and fell asleep for hours, waking up half confused about where I was. The next day I felt remarkable.
Try out this technique for yourself to see how well your body and mind cooperate: set aside about 5-10 minutes by yourself, start with a couple rounds of inhaling and exhaling for a steady 10 count keeping your breathing under control, focus on your breathing and try not to let your mind wonder. After a few rounds, continue the pattern but add holding your breath in for a 10 count after the inhale and then exhaling with control (be ready for your body to try and force the air out of your lungs). After you feel that you are confident and able to handle steadily inhaling, holding, and exhaling for a 10 count of each, try adding a hold after the exhale. This is where you will need to have some real mental strength. If you are able to maintain composure, hold it for a 10 count and inhale under control, but this is what took me the most time and patience, and still does at times depending on my life situations.
By practicing this technique you can better understand a few things: 1. air and breathing are taken for granted, 2. some things are within your control (your body, mind, and emotions), and 3. teaching your body and mind to work together is a freeing feeling.