Some days are more stressful than others. Without conscious attention, stress creates its own vicious cycle, chemicals flood the system. Reactions include shortening or holding the breath. Visual perception narrows as does cortical activity. Neural conditioning kicks in, inhibiting creative thought. The muscles of the body tense, as if to get ready. The greater the stress, the more the muscles tighten. As the body constricts, it is harder to breathe deeply. The constriction extends to blood flow and oxygenation at the cellular level. Less oxygen adds to the stress on the system and so on and so forth, world without end.
With conscious attention it is both simple and easy to reverse the cycle, creating a breathing space, as it were, for your ‘self’. The effect may seem minimal or even nothing, because the effect is gradual. Deceptive, because breathing a little bit slower, and especially little bit deeper, over a very short period can dramatically change the experience you have of life, in the moment, and living itself. It can change who you are, if you want.
Simply pay attention to your breath. If you do, in a moment or two, you will notice an inclination to breathe somewhat differently. IF you don’t ‘hear’ the indications or notice it happening naturally, simply, gradually slow and deepen the cycle of in-breath / out-breath. Gently continue as appropriate, never forcing, listening to the impulse to breathe. Simply, loosely, very easily, following the breath. Notice any changes in feeling: of mind as well as body, in muscle tone, tension or relaxation, your attitude of the instant, and the ease of breathing itself.
You can combine the practice of breath with relaxing the muscles. Tighten, ever so slightly on the inhale, and relax fully, as you exhale.
Just listening to the impulse to breathe may seem superfluous, in that it won’t solve what you think are the problems that are causing your stress. Though that may be true, it might make a bumpy ride a little less upsetting.
And, it might allow a state of creativity that offers you solutions never perceived in the vicious cycle of stress. So, it might be the key to the solution. What is likely true is, as Albert Einstein said,
“We will never solve the problems we face, with the thinking that created them.”