If there is one way to ease anxiety, it is to remember to breathe. 

Of course we never stop breathing… unless we are dead… but we do stop deep breathing.  All the time. 

In fact, 90% of people breathe shallowly 90% of the time.*

If you are prone to suffering from panic attacks, being able to breathe deeply can bring you back to normal.

If you are prone to anxiety, deep breathing along with conscious relaxation can “cure” you of anxiety. 

The key to making deep breathing work for you, though, is to practice it when you are not anxious or panicking.  By the time panic hits, it’s too late to practice.  It’s like a football team going out for the big game without ever meeting for practice beforehand. 

Ok, practice time:

1.  Take a deep breath.  Push your belly OUT as you breathe IN.  Imagine that you’re filling your belly up with air.  Count to 5.

2.  Breathe out.  Push the air out of your belly.  Count to 5. 

3.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 five times.  As you are doing this, let your eyeballs relax in your eye sockets.  Relieve tension in your eyebrow area.  Relax your jaw.  Just let it hang down.  Don’t try to smile or frown.  Relax your belly.  When you breathe in, really let the belly muscles relax out. 

For those of you who practice yoga, this should all seem familiar.  If you have done yoga before and this doesn’t seem familiar, you have not been doing yoga.  Not really.  Yoga without the breath is not yoga. 

Now, the next step is to continue to bring this type of breathing into your daily life.  Try it at work; try it with your spouse or kids at home; try it when you go to the store.  The more you practice it, the better you get and the more relaxed you will be (or at least seem to be to everyone else)! 

*This is not a fact, just my opinion.

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One of the darkest periods in my life was when I was in college and realized that I had lice.  Ew.  

lice

NOT a teeny-tiny cute little spider.

A few days later, itching my head, I found (getting goosebumps just writing this) a whole lot more teeny-tiny spiders!  Not so cute any more.  

I practically ran to the drugstore to get Nix or whatever the over-the-counter lice remedy at that time was called.  Following the instructions to a “T” – even washing and vacuuming everything in sight – I was sure the ordeal was over.  

Wrong.

The little invaders returned.  Lice II.

I did the Nix again.  I even had my lovely, lovely roommate (I love you Erica) painstakingly comb every strand of my hair and hand-remove every single nit she could see.  This took about 3 hours.  

Lice III.

It was like a horror movie.  This time they actually were in my eyelashes.  And eyebrows.  I think I may have screamed.  

So, I did what every other red-blooded American does.  I called my doctor.  I was a UT student so I went to the student clinic on campus.  The doctor listened to me rant – probably frantically – about the lice “they were even in my eyelashes!!!”  Her expression didn’t change.  ”Did you try Nix?”  ”Yes… (thinking – I’m not stupid…).  I did it twice and it’s not working.”  ”Did you wash your bedding and vacuum?”  ”Yes!”  ”Well, I can give you a prescription for something.”  She shrugged her shoulders.  I’m sure she was judging me in her head.

I tried the prescription-strength lice-remover stuff.  I kid you not.  Lice IV.  

This is like the scene in the scary movie where the heroine is running to the door, crying.  The killer is right behind her.  This is her last moment to survive.  Kill or be killed.  

So I did what every other hippy-ish Austinite would do.  I went to Whole Foods.  I got tea tree oil shampoo.  One gentle washing and comb-through.  I also took some deep cleansing breaths and mentally decided that this phase is over.  Lice eradicated.  

I still have little flash-backs of this nightmare.  Seriously.  When I get a little itch on my scalp, I still check to make sure there’s no lice.  It has been over 15 years.  

My whole point is…(yes – there is a point!)

Well, two points:

1.  Tea tree oil is amaze-balls for treating lice.

2.  Why do we tend to go for the equivalency of the Atom bomb before trying a peace treaty?  Why do we opt for prescriptions and surgeries (which in a sense are fighting against what your body is trying to do and tell you) before we try something non-invasive and natural (that works with your body and its senses)?  I know there’s a time for the harsh tactics, but I think it’s when all else has truly failed.  

I think it’s that when we are hurting or sick in some way, we want the strongest thing around to fight it off.  Maybe this is just human tendency.  I’ve found that if I can just calm myself down first – whether it’s back pain or headache or stomach cramps or throat infection – and decide that I’m going to recover with the help of just some herbs, acupuncture, and maybe a massage, it works!  

What do you think?  Do you notice if you’ve ever gone in “full-force” to treat something with harsh medicines only to end up the same or worse?  Have you ever tried a natural approach and surprised yourself with how well it worked?  

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Why is it that when you have a stressful encounter – like a car accident – that your heart can race afterward for hours?  Why does weight gain creep up steadily over the years?  

Your nervous system reacts to stimuli in your life and starts creating patterns.  From early infancy, your body is recording patterns and making assumptions about how things are supposed to be.  This makes me happy; this makes me mad; this makes me energetic; etc.  

Our complex monkey brains have adapted to unpleasantness through drug use.  We are all drug users.  Caffeine / alcohol / marijuana / NSAIDs / other various prescriptions / etc.  Even sugar is a drug.  Even bread!  Unless you are truly living off of the land – killing squirrels in your backyard and digging up roots to eat for dinner – you are using drugs.  Cleansing is a time to truly go “drug-free.”  The true purpose of a cleanse is not to starve yourself and make yourself skinny (although – admit it – you were hoping it would!).  The purpose of cleansing is to align your breath and your body and mind.  Give your neurotransmitters a break from the usual pattern.  Create a new pattern.  

We tend to eat the same foods every day.  It’s mostly just habit.  Weight loss won’t occur until you change the habits.  Anxiety won’t go away until you change the stimuli.  Only by creating a new pattern – a new way of feeling – will there be permanent changes in your body.  

People think about starting a workout regimen to get in shape, then drop out because they “don’t see any results.”  This is so short-sighted!  Our bodies are so resistant to change!  Only by committing to the new habit will positive changes show up.  And this process may take over a year.  

Unfortunately, most people won’t commit to change until the problem until they:

  1. acknowledge there is a problem
  2. acknowledge that the problem is ruining their life
  3. hope for the future is only through change

Many people try acupuncture for the first time because they are curious.  They come in for a treatment or two and then they’re gone.  ”I tried it!  It’s awesome!”  But then the next time they get a sinus infection, the pattern – the modus operandi – is to go back to their MD and get drugs.  It’s what we have been trained from infancy to do!  Even many acupuncturists are brain-washed to take Advil for a headache / Tums for acid stomach / etc.  It’s hard to change the pattern.  

I am a fan of “mini-cleanses.”  Even in the course of one day, I may consciously take 3 or 4 hours to just drink water and breathe deeply.  Get a massage.  Do some walking or yoga.  Go for a swim or sit outside and sweat.  

It’s a chance to reprogram.

What is your body telling you?  

Take a deep breath into your belly.  Relax your gut.  We tend to tighten our bellies all day long.  We are trying to look slimmer, but at a detriment to our lower backs and our digestive system.  Tightening your belly (“sucking in”) shuts down circulation to your middle “burner.”  In Chinese medicine this is your digestive and emotional center.  Your middle chakra (*chakras are NOT related to Chinese medicine BTW) is your power-house.  Don’t tighten, but relax and breathe in and expand.  

Take the time to relax your belly and breathe, drink some water, and clear your head.  Have an acupuncture treatment!  

The only way to change emotions, or weight, or any health concern, is to first OWN it.  Acknowledge that it is yours.  I think a lot of people trying to lose weight are trying to run away from the weight.  ”This isn’t me!!!  Get it off of me!!!”  This will never work.  Again, sit with yourself.  Breathe deep into your (perhaps big) belly.  Let it be there and fully present.  ”Hello, (big) belly.  What’s up?  What is your need?  How are you helping me?  What are you trying to tell me?”

Thoughts?  

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