The Best Thing To Do When You’re Stressed (Bonus; It’s Free!)
Stress is a killer. It’s the source of sickness, fatigue, loss of productivity and grey hair. There will always be stress; it’s an unavoidable part of life, but one that’s necessary for growth.
Stressful situations put you at a crossroads of who you were and who you are becoming. They provide a window of opportunity to cultivate new skills that evolve you into a more resilient person —someone who’s coping skills have transformed them from victim to victor.
Instead of checking out, reacting or self-medicating when things get tough, check in to the moment and breathe. Breathing with awareness is the best thing you can do when stressed.
Your breath links you to a stronger, more adaptable and wise part of yourself that can help you weather any storm.
Your breath is alive and in-the-now. Focus on your breath to bring your awareness to the present. It will also give your mind something to focus on beyond the stress which gives perspective and spaciousness.
- Listen to the sound of your breathing to draw your attention to the moment.
- Feel your body expand and contract as you breathe.
- Breathe into the back of your body to move your awareness beyond what you can see.
Build Your Reserves
When you breathe, you draw more prana (vitality or chi) into your system. Direct it anywhere you need more space, relief or healing. Hold back extra prana in reserve for challenging times.
- Move your prana with your breath; where your attention goes energy flows.
- Draw in sustenance on your inhale, release what isn’t serving you on your exhale.
- After a full inhale, hold your breath for a few seconds and imagine the prana circulating inside you and welling up for times of need —no need to release this when you exhale, just let the air out, but keep the reserves for later.
The Victorious Breath
Practice ujjayi, or “victorious breath” regularly. It will expand the capacity of your lungs as well as your ability to be a bigger vessel for the prana to move within you. The practice also creates a calm mind and the ability to withstand stress.
- Exhale as if fogging up a glass, but close your lips and breathe out through your nose instead of your mouth.
- Make your breath loud enough to hear, but not so loud it’s harsh.
- Engage the muscles between navel & pubic bone so your belly doesn’t distend.
- Instead, expand your ribs, circumferentially and lift your chest as you inhale.
- Keep your chest lifted and your shoulders back as you exhale slowly.
- Smooth out the rhythm and sound of your ujjayi so it’s as even as possible.
Note: This article was originally posted in 2013, but has been updated and refined for clarity and re-posted because of the importance of the topic. Thanks for reading!