A significant part of my role as a health coach is to encourage people to relax more. It is vital to our health and well-being, yet often a difficult one to master!
As someone who throws herself at life at lightening pace, I can really resonate with this one. I am as guilty as anyone for dashing from one thing to another with enthusiasm and excitement.
However, we all know that it is not possible to sustain life in the fast lane, and to use a well-known phrase we all know that ‘burning the candle at both ends’ will ultimately leave us feeling depleted.
So why do many people struggle to give as much attention to their self-care as they do the other areas in their lives? Again, we are all familiar with the phrase ‘ you cannot pour from an empty cup’, and with the aeroplane analogy that we need to put our own oxygen masks before we attend to our children in an emergency. We are no help to anyone if we are do not take care of ourselves first.
It is vital that we take a moment to pause and replenish on a regular basis. This is especially relevant to several of my clients’ who have a very clear purpose in life to help others. They always put others needs before themselves, and it is difficult to convince them to put aside for dedicated self-care.
So, how can we replenish ourselves daily?
Quite simply, the easiest way to relax is to learn to slow down, and to slow down our breathing.
It is such a simple thing.
Even moderate levels of stress, which many of us experience daily can cause the body to switch on the ‘fight or flight response’. We developed this stress response to adapt to threats in our environment; to prepare us for danger. However, it has been shown that simply being overwhelmed by a torrent of emails can switch on the fight or flight response. Our brains are clearly unable to distinguish between a real threat such as that of being faced by a tiger and the stress of a full email inbox.
However, the great news is, is that we can override this natural mechanism quite easily by simply making a habit of regularly slowly down the breath. By taking slow conscious breaths we can trick our brain into switching off the stress response and instead switching on the relaxation response. Conscious slow breathing causes very real and beneficial physiological changes in the body, but we simply just do not give it the attention it deserves.
Making time to regularly slow down our breathing, will not only help us to calm the nervous system, but it will help every organ in our bodies to work more efficiently. We will think more clearly, digest our food more efficiently, increase our metabolic rate, enable healing, and much more. Slow conscious breathing simply prevents us causing unnecessary stress on our body.
It is so important that we do not underestimate the power of slowing down the breath and start giving it the attention it deserves….
I would always recommend practising meditation and visualisation exercises, and there are plenty of brilliant apps available to do this. However, this might not appeal to everyone.
We need to adopt practices that appeal and fit into our lifestyles and suit our individual preferences. It can be also be helpful to attach new habits to existing habits. For example, slow conscious breathing before each meal, or taking deep breaths regularly when we put the kettle on to boil, or sit down to that cuppa might be more achievable for some. However, the key is as with all healthy lifestyle change, is to make it a practice, a habit.
Slowing down our breathing can also help us to slow down in life in general. Very often how we do one thing is how we do everything… If we race through life at lightning speed, it is likely that we not only breathe too quickly, but also that we eat too quickly, move too quickly, and pretty much do everything more quickly, which quite simply leads to exhaustion. We all have a threshold. We are not superhuman, eventually the stress bucket will overflow, and something will have to give.
So, what can we do to help us to slow down? Well, we could simply pause to gaze up at the sky or out into nature and enjoying a moment to reflect or daydream. We might take a moment to really tune into our senses. This is such a great way to bring us into the present. simply noticing what we can hear, see, smell, taste, or touch at any given moment really helps us to focus, to keep us grounded, and to slow us down……
Like I said, it’s not complicated, but the effects are far reaching…. slowing down enables us to be more efficient in every area of our lives and importantly will enable us to engage in life in a way that is sustainable. We simply cannot pour from an empty cup.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is time to pause and give it the attention it deserves.
Just schedule time regularly each day to press pause, slow down, and breathe….