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Just Breathe

The Spirit of God has made me,

and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

One of the first and easiest skills I teach my clients is deep breathing. Taking slow deep breaths is the simplest way to slow down the acute stress response of the body. And so many people today are under stress and it is taking its tolls on us physically, mentally and spiritually.

When our body is in hyperarousal, we are prepared to fight or flight a perceived threat. This works perfectly if we are facing a short term threat, such as a car that suddenly swerves into our lane. We want our body to be able to react quickly without thinking much about our available choices. We just want our arms to quickly manuvear the steering wheel, our foot to quickly hit the break and give us the best chance of safety.

The problem we have in our modern world is that stressors are not so short lived. When we are chronically in a state of hyperarousal, our health, our mood and our relationships will often suffer. And this has been a year of high stress.

Focusing on our breath, slowly breathing in, filling our lungs, slowly releasing it, can start to turn off all of the signals of danger in our body that keeps us on high alert and ready for action. Physically, our brain registers that we are relaxed and our heart rate decreases, our muscles release tension and blood pressure goes down.

Mentally, our thoughts can become clearer as we have access to our prefrontal cortex. We don't have clear access to this problem solving, planning part of our brain when we perceive threat. We are wired to react rather than to think and problem solve when we are activated for fight or flight.

Spiritually we can be grounded in this present moment, when what we currently need for life is our breath which is freely available to us. We have only this moment to use it, to let it regenerate us and then we need to release it. It is one of the only necessary resources that we cannot hoard and save up to protect us in the future. We develop a trust that the God who gives us this breath of life will moment by moment make it available to us as long as He grants us life. It centers us in our body. When we focus on our sensation of breathing, what it feels like going through our nostrils, filling our lungs and releasing, we are mindful of our body sensations as opposed to our spiraling thoughts. We are grounded in this present moment and not the fear of the future or the regrets of the past.

So if you are feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, fearful, stressed, take a few moments to just breathe.

This post has been written as part of the Five Minute Friday community. A group of writers who write for 5 minutes each week on a given prompt. Find our more here.

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