Breathe

What a strange concept; reminding myself to breathe. It’s quite remarkable how often we forget to consciously take in deep breaths.

I want to use this post as a reminder to appreciate the little things in life that can make a tremendous difference, like your breath. It’s something to really be grateful for.

Mindfulness and dealing with emotions

Breathing is an act that truly grounds you. Not only is it a necessary component to survive (thank you oxygen), but it’s also something that maintains your equilibrium.

This time of the year can be particularly stressful, especially if you’re in your final year at university. The projects, the workload, trying to apply for jobs, figuring out what’s going to happen next year; it can get a lot. I’ve also had to attend a number of virtual interviews over the past few weeks and if I’m being honest, they can be nerve-wrecking.

I almost always feel anxious or nervous before the call, and I can feel the way my body starts to react. I start taking shorter and shallower breaths, I start overthinking, I start sweating and I feel a tingly sensation in my tummy.

Despite that, I somehow make sure I remain confident and feel prepared. So how do I make sure I’m level-headed and calm? By slowing down my breathing.

This works so well whenever I’m faced with a daunting task or feeling overwhelmed. Just breathe.

Now is all you have

It’s come down to a very simple philosophy, understanding that we only have the present moment.

You can’t breathe yesterday, later or tomorrow. You can only breathe now.

You’re reminding yourself that life is temporary. Things comes and go, just like the breath. It’s ultimately about appreciating each and every breath; you don’t know when it will be your last.

Grounding practice

What you’re also doing here is conditioning your brain to focus on one thing at a time. It’s easy to lose focus when we’re anxious or stressed, because our thoughts are occupied with the past or future.

Breathing helps us remind our brains that the stories we make up in our heads aren’t actually real. They’re mental constructions that we’ve created.

We just need to constantly remind ourselves that. When in doubt, be grateful and focus on your breath.

Oxygen to your brain

There are even more benefits to deep breathing! This is so obvious but very often missed. When you breathe more meaningfully and consciously, you allow more oxygen to enter the body.

This further improves the circulation of oxygen entering your bloodstream and into your brain, which helps you focus. Spending some time in nature (surrounded by trees) can also really help with your breathing. The air is fresh and full of life.

“Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not the okay, it’s not the end.”

This short post is a gentle mindfulness reminder. Life will inevitably bring pain, the suffering is up to you. Look at things from a perspective of growth and learning. Keep track of the way your body reacts.

Remind yourself to breathe more often. You will get through this. You will survive. It sometimes seems out of reach, the finish line seems so far away, but I believe in you. I think you should too.

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment?

I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought I’d make my own version of it.

This can be a space for us to talk about certain topics every week. I’d like to talk more about what makes you mindful of yourself and how you stay present. I’ll expand on the ideas to help us all gain some better self-awareness.

Please comment on what you’d like me to discuss over the next post and what intrigued you about this one.

I also realized that we’re going to have to be willing to develop ourselves, before we are capable of helping others.

We should start appreciating what we have within our current circumstances. Understand how now is all that we have and that we should really stay mindful of our daily habits.

Later

It’s always about stressing with regards to the future. The meeting at 1 pm. The assignment due at 5 pm. The assignment starting next Monday. The gym session at 8 pm. Making something to eat when you get home. Trying to wake up at 5 am.

Tomorrow always has more to come. It somehow feels like chasing infinity.

Wondering how the 4th industrial revolution is going to change our lives. Are the machines taking over? Why is there so much AI?

Accept, plan and do one thing at a time.

History

Or it’s remembering how tough yesterday was. How exhausted we are from the intense working hours. The sly remark someone made about us. How amazing the holiday was.

All but a fiction of the imagination, playing to our current perspective of past events. Accept, learn and let go.

Breathe

It’s the easiest way to ground yourself. Take a deep breath through your lower abdomen. Do it repeatedly for like a minute and you’re bound to feel present.

It’s incredible how you can only breathe in the present moment. You can’t really breathe later, or breathe in the past. You can only breathe now.

Wouldn’t that make breathing, the essence of your life?

To stay a little more mindful, why not try and breathe with more intent. Focus on the sky for a little longer each morning. Be grateful for having yet another beautiful day. Take in a whiff of the delicious coffee. Let the piece of chocolate melt on your tongue.

We’ll get through this. It gets tough sometimes, but you’re tougher. It gets lonely sometimes, but you’re loved. It gets stressful at times, but you’re capable.

We should be eager to try our best. Without fail. Each and every day. Not being afraid of failure or criticism. Not letting the world tell us no! Just not yet.

Make stress your friend!

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

By now, I’ve explained how critical perspectives are. I’d like to help change your mindset towards a very common foe; stress. I shouldn’t be using the term foe at all, in fact it’s our ally more than anything.

Let’s unravel how building a relationship with stress, can boost our performance in pretty much every aspect of our life. And how our relationships can also help us better deal with it.

I’ll start start with a few negative aspects regarding stress.

The statistics are quite staggering. Stress is absolutely detrimental to your health. Here are a few of the risks associated with chronic stress:

  • Mental health issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Intense headaches
  • Weakened immunity

This isn’t meant to scare you (or maybe it is idk). I’m just trying to shed some light on a very common subject. The negative effects are associated only when you believe that being stressed is bad for you. So the aim is to try and optimize that belief.

But can a simple change in perspective really minimize the negative effects? -Absolutely.

Here’s a TED talk I highly recommend if you have the time:

You should also know by now that I’ve started to fall in love with questions. So what is stress?

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

I quite like how brief that description is. We pretty much feel stressed all the time. It comes in various forms & at multiple stages, but it’s always somewhere there. It’s what forces us out of bed every morning. It’s what pushes us to study for our exams and get done with our tasks.

The key to problem solving, lies in having great awareness of the issue. This would also include having a good understanding of what you’re capable of doing. Largely, what we know about stress is that feeling when we have a substantial amount of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it. We get a little panicky, impatient, slightly (or highly) irritable.

So the first step would be to become aware of those feelings. Accept them as part of your body’s natural response. Don’t think about it as being bad for you.

The next question is: How much of stress do we need?

The mind works in marvelous ways. I’ve always been fascinated by how quickly we adapt to uncomfortable situations. There’s a very narrow gap between having just enough stress to be motivated, and that overflowing into stress that damages our health.

Each person works effectively under different circumstances. Therefore, there can’t really be a definitive answer to how much stress we need.

Identify it for yourself, through building some form of self-awareness. Determine how much stress pushes you to work, and how much stress pushes you overboard.

Think of stress as your back-up response. Your personal SOS. Your subconscious dial for 911. It’s your ally! It’s there to help you, as long as you keep it in check.

I love talking to people about perspective changing, because it’s honestly what has helped me change so much in my own life. Now, I’m going to ask another very important question: How do we learn to deal with stress?

The minute you start ignoring the signals your body sends you, that’s when stress starts getting out of control. A few key important steps:

  • Notice how your breathing changes (breathe in more deeply)
  • Be aware of your thought patterns (stay present)
  • Focus on the task at hand (back yourself)
  • Imagine the feeling of relaxation once it’s over (you will survive!)
  • Socialize 🙂

Apart from the aforementioned points, immerse yourself in the present moment by practicing something you really enjoy. Clear your mind with exercise, watching a sunset, reading an interesting book, watching your favourite movie or just going for a stroll in nature.

The key philosophy I’m trying to get to is this:

Better awareness leads to better choices, which ultimately leads to better results.

Do you know what else works really well to relieve stress?

Oxytocin!

For those of you who don’t know what oxytocin is; it’s not a drug. Well sort of. It’s a hormone released in your body that’s associated with socializing. Also known as the cuddle hormone. Oxytocin is released as part of the stress response, to help you get along with other people.

Lucerne, Switzerland [Contiki 2018]

Why would that help? Because we’ve evolved that way. The most effective way to deal with daily stressors is through seeking assistance. When you confide in others and find a helpful social structure, you mentally deal with the stress a lot better.

I really just want you all to realize that there are certain aspects of our biology that we can and cannot control. The most efficient way to live therefore, is to use what we can control, to help us deal with what we cannot control.

Stress is your friend. And your friends help you with stress. Life is a vicious cycle of paradoxes that don’t always make sense. That’s okay. We just have to follow our nature. Try our best. And ultimately realize that we’re going to die some day. None of this will really matter then.

“Live for the present like you’ll die tomorrow, plan for the future like you’ll live forever.”

One of the most profound quotes I’ve come across. I hope this message was beneficial. Please share it with those who could make use of it. The aim is to help as many people as possible live out their full potential.