Here’s something I never would have considered I’d write about in a million years – breathing as a means of helping myself. No more than getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep, eating the right food, it’s something we hear about over and over. Just breathe. Focus on the breath. Slow down and breathe etc etc etc. Have I ever really bought into this? No! Of course not. Why? Because I’ve been told it will help and I’m a stubborn hoor.

From the first day I met her Therapist 2.0 has been talking about something called soothing rhythm breathing. Initially it landed on our agenda at every session, but we always seemed to run out of time. Then she tried suggesting I google it and have a go myself. Did I? Did I feck. I had a very half hearted look at it over the weekend, tried it once, decided it was boring and dismissed it.

This week I told her how much I’m resisting it. No more than with Eden last week, she reminded me that what we resist the most, what we want to run from the most, is quite likely what we need the most, so there was no letting me away with it and she took me through it in the session. Normally this kind of thing makes me want to run screaming. Therapist 1.0 tried several times over the years to get me to role play scenarios, or practice breathing exercises, she even once suggested I scream as loud as I could. Needless to say none of these things ever happened, primarily because I’m too self conscious and feel really stupid doing it. When Therapist 2.0 suggested doing it I balked, but went with it. Everything she’s told me so far about how our brain and body interact has made so much sense – how easily our threat system is activated, the impact that has on how we feel and act, and then the impact that has in turn on our brain……….and on and on and on. So soothing rhythm breathing? Turns out this is quite likely to make a lot of sense too. She said it will take time, but if I can manage to get my breathing to six breaths or under in a minute, that it will activate my parasympathetic nervous system (I’ve yet to fully understand what that is) and help ground me.

We spent about 4 or 5 minutes doing it at the end of the session. I was nowhere near the 6 breath goal, and spent a lot of the time wrestling with feeling extremely self conscious, but I did it. I spend a huge amount of my time breathing just with my chest which feeds into anxiety and makes it far more likely that I’ll overreact to whatever circumstance I’m confronted with, but if I can manage to learn to slow my breathing down then I might just be able to keep a handle on it.

She also wants me to get into the habit of practicing with a smell that I like. Apparently our sense of smell is the quickest path to our brain, so if I can work on having a smell I associate with feeling calm and relaxed, then the theory goes that that will help when I’m stressed/anxious etc etc. So, I’ve made a bold move. I’ve downloaded Headspace, again, and thanks to Suicide or Survive I have a subscription for a full year. All I need to do is find some lavender and breathe. How hard can it be?!

 

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  1. According to a workbook that I was going through with my (probably Aspergers) son, your parasympathetic system is your bodies cool mode, as opposed to your bodies sympathetic nervous system which is your Fight Or Flight reflex that they refer to as your bodies hot mode. The key is that you physically can’t be in both modes at once. When fight or flight / hot mode triggers your heart rate goes up, your breathing quickens, you get ready to fight or flight and I think (but I may be wrong here) this can be what triggers the black and white thinking and the anxiety. If you can do calming things such as slowing your breathing, you reset your body to cool mode. I am not explaining it any where near as well as the (very excellent) book. Anyway, hope the breathing helps.

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