“Breathe. Just Breathe.” Those were the words of Master Jedi Luke Skywalker as he trained Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And, naturally, Rey made it look so easy, right? In mere seconds, Rey reached out and connected with The Force in ways she never imagined — by merely breathing, the anxiety disappeared. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s Hollywood for ya!” True. But in real life, Luke’s message to take a nice deep breath can just as easily help us relax and, like Rey, see the bigger picture.
So why don’t we do it enough?
Well, you can point to many culprits. Perhaps the biggest is anxiety.
As we learned in our previous post, anxiety is rampant these days. And not just because of the coronavirus. It has become a way of life for many people — maybe even for someone like you who normally lets problems roll off your back — and keeps us from seeing the divine in our current situation or circumstance. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re so bottled up that now you can’t enjoy life, recognize what you’ve learned, be grateful for what you have, or find a way to respond positively in times of chaos. You may also have noticed your anxieties are blocking you from taking a step back to process everything. This is where you can take some personal actions to help you overcome many of these issues.
These are not the emotions you’re looking for!
First, let’s understand what anxiety is. General anxiety includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, can feel nearly impossible to control, are typically out of proportion to the actual circumstance, and can last for a long time.
Anxiety leads to many destructive feelings and behaviors we experience daily.
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- That “out of control” feeling
- Fear and dread
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Sleeping problems
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of uncertainty
We should take anxiety seriously — especially when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. You probably noticed overwhelming and erratic emotions like the ones mentioned above, swimming around in your head for the past few months. One day, you’re hopeful about the future. And the next, you’re stressed to the max. We need to realize God wants us to be at peace or happy, even though we experience trials. Sometimes it just feels like we are drowning in the overwhelm.
Life feels Chaotic
During times like these, it’s easy for us to feel like life is too chaotic. We can’t recapture the structure we once had, so we instantly feel defeated. Once again, Jonathan Cahn in The Book of Mysteries challenges us to see the divine in our current situation or circumstance:
“There aren’t many houses or hotels on the Sea of Galilee, because the sea has always had a negative connotation for Jews. In fact, the Hebrew word for water – mayim – comes from the root word mah meaning “chaos,” which makes sense when you consider they grew up hearing that a flood wiped out the earth. So why then does Jesus “insist” his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee during a storm? He sent them into the chaos! But, then came to help them by walking on top of the water – showing that he is in total control of ALL chaos”.
Look, even if your life is out of whack, Jesus is in control, and you have the power to get on top of the chaos with Him and have a peaceful approach. Meditate, praise, and pray.
Next, we can take the initiative with a very simple exercise.
“Now reach out. What do you see?”
Just 20 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing is all that’s needed to activate and oxygenate the mindful and thinking part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. To use this technique, take several deep breaths and relax your body further with each breath. Here’s an example of a quick 10-20 minute breathing exercise:
- Sit quietly and comfortably
- Close your eyes
- Relax the muscles in your feet and work up your body, relaxing each muscle as you go
- Focus your attention on your breathing
- Breathe in deeply and then let your breath out. Count your breaths, 5 counts in through the nose, and 6-7 out through pursed lips. Make sure you do the counting; it is an integral part of the breathing process and gives you something to do with your mind (mindfulness), so you can avoid distractions.
Benefits of Exercise
In The Mindfulness Toolbox: 50 practical tips, tools, & handouts for anxiety, depression, stress, & pain by Donald Altman, it is noted that long, slow breathing (belly breathing) turns on the body’s built-in relaxation system and engages the thinking part of the brain while blocking reactivity and unhealthy emotions. Altman refers to it as the air conditioning system of the brain and body because breathing keeps the brain’s reactive core from overheating. It also:
- Lowers blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration
- Cleanses lactate from the blood, decreasing feelings of anxiety
- Increases alpha brain waves, which make us calm and alert
- Releases serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain
He goes on to say that both adults AND children can benefit from daily breathing exercises. Children tend to be quite adept at learning the power of self-soothing through this practice. To help your child, ask them to blow bubbles. The bigger the bubble they blow, they will need to exhale a longer and slower breath.
Another option is to have your child blow on a pinwheel and keep it spinning for as long as they can. They can also lie down, place a balloon or piece of paper on their belly, and move it just by breathing. These require long, slow breaths.
All we are saying here is that many of the anxieties we face can be overcome through trusting God, walking with Him in our circumstances, and doing some simple breathing exercises. Especially in today’s world with everything going on and the myriad of external stressors that we can’t control, we challenge you to take a nice deep breath to let it all melt away. You may find it is more helpful than you originally thought.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have a safe and connected marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? Do you have a safe and connected marriage? What are some ways you and your spouse can manage the stress or anxiety around you? Can you work together to relax, relieve tension, and pray together, or encourage one another to “just breathe”? Send us a quick email and let us know how you did it so that others can learn as well! mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.