|Deep breathing makes it easier
How many times during the course of a busy day do you stop and realize that you're hardly breathing? Caregivers have special demands on their time, energy, and mental, physical and emotional health.
Sometimes the stress can be so overwhelming you may even find yourself so tensed up you are hardly breathing, or are perhaps even hyperventilating. Breathing is obviously essential to life, so how do we re-train our bodies to breath properly? How does improper breathing start in the first place?
Take notice of your breathing
Take a deep breath. Notice how you are breathing. Do your shoulders or chest rise? Does it even hurt to take a deep breath? These are signs that your breathing habits need a makeover. Now try this: take a deep breath through your nose and concentrate on filling your diaphragm with air. You should notice your belly rising instead of your shoulders or chest rising. Now, slowly let the air out through your mouth. This act of focused breathing can become your norm if you practice mindful breathing. Why is this so important?
If you've ever watched a baby sleep, you may have noticed how deeply such little ones breathe. Their bellies fill right up with air and they look peaceful and content. This should give us a clue that deep breathing is a natural function. Our noses are there for a reason. When we breathe in through our noses, as opposed to our mouths, pollutants and germs get filtered out. We also get a more moist breath of air directed to our lungs. This helps prevent infection and gives a purer dose of air to our lungs.
Being self-conscious of our stomachs can prevent deep breathing. Society tells us we need to appear as slender as possible, so we may tend to hold in our stomachs, which in turn leads to shallow breathing. Shallow breathing prevents our lungs from filling with much needed oxygen, because the air only reaches the chest instead of traveling all the way down to the diaphragm. After inhaling oxygen, our bodies need to expel toxic carbon dioxide. If we don't practice deep breathing the body will become toxic, which can in turn lead to anxiety.
How can you fix it?
How can we kick this bad habit of improper breathing? The good news is that our bodies want to breath properly. Just a few minutes of mindful breathing every day can help you retrain your body to breath properly without even thinking about it. Ideally, you would spend several minutes a day perhaps laying down and just practicing deep breathing. Don't have that kind of time? Well, even practicing while you're sitting in traffic, or taking a couple minutes before your lunch break can help get you on the right track. Every little bit helps. If you're feeling ambitious and really want to make some good progress, exercises such as Pilates or yoga can really go a long way in changing your breathing habits.
Deep breathing can help ward off infections, reduce stress, control the heart rate and blood pressure, and clear the mind. It's worth taking a few minutes every day to practice this good habit.
Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.