It usually takes me a while before I realize I haven’t been breathing and then suddenly I take a gasping breath. If my kids are with me they immediately ask “Mom, are you okay?”. My head hurts, my chest is tight and I realize that anxiety has taken hold and I’ve been swept along into a raging river and I’m drowning.
I can’t even understand how I forget to breathe, because I thought it was one of those involuntary things. Like, of course you know to breathe. But, I googled it, just to be sure and learned that anxiety and stress can cause us to breathe shallow, or even forget to breathe for just a moment. So, I’ve been trying to learn to breathe again. It seems obvious, but just in case you could use the reminder to breathe, here are some ideas that I have learned that help me to grasp to a lifeline and swim to shore.
Once I learned that gasping is what I do when I’ve stopped breathing, I have learned also to actually stop and take a moment to figure things out. I notice where I am (have you ever driven somewhere and wondered how you got there?) and what is happening in my body-what it is I am physically feeling. Am I hungry? When was my last meal? Am I tired? Over emotional? Getting a migraine? Dehydrated? Often when we are stressed, we forget some very basic things.
I notice where the tension is in my body and if I am holding myself rigid. I try to regulate my breathing by doing some breathing exercises. Basically, I check-in with myself and ask myself where I’m at.
If I have time, a quick journaling exercise is helpful. I jot down what I can see, smell, touch and hear. I become aware of my senses. There is no right or wrong answer and it can be just a few words or a long explanation- whatever you have time for. I think of this as grounding myself and I document it. I could be in the car, in a parking lot. I might see things outside or just in front of me. You get the idea.
Next I ask myself what I’m thinking. Well, that’s a big one…but usually there is something that is pressing on my mind that caused this whole anxiety thing to begin with, so I need to get to that thought. I just free write here of all of the things pressing on my mind. When I get to the thing, I know it. My heart knows it. And that’s the thing to deal with.
Look for truth
At this point I am usually calmer. Simply giving a name to the cause of the anxiety often brings some peace. At least now I know what it is.
And, so I pray. And I ask the Lord to show me truth. I remind myself of truths that I already know. I re-frame the wrong thoughts that have been swirling in my brain. I declare truth in the next words I write. And even if I don’t know the answers to the problem or even the next steps, I’ve grounded myself in the only place I need to be.
So, today, let’s take a deep breath. Even when we feel like we are drowning, we can turn that moment around. God is right there.
He always was. We just needed to remember.