It can be hard to catch your breath, sometimes literally. With busy work schedules and overflowing social calendars, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in deadlines, to-do lists, and FOMO.
So what’s one to do when the anxiety monster attacks? Considering it rarely arrives at an opportune time, I spoke with one of Chicago Athletic Clubs’ enlightened yoga instructors, Stephanie Smith, to hear what she has to say about how to regain your cool during an early morning meltdown.
Whether you’re in a car, on your feet, or squished on the CTA, Smith’s go-to breathing techniques can help guide you back to a steady, normal-for-you rhythm. She started using this first tip after her elementary school guidance counselor shared it with her and continues to use it to this day.
“First, notice your breath and how you’re breathing,” she explains. “Then slowly inhale through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. On your next inhale tense all of your muscles. Then on your exhalation release any tension in your body from your head to your toes. Repeat 1 or 2 more times then continue to breathe, slowly focusing on softening your body on the exhales.”
If you feel like the first breathing tip may not be the best for you, Smith offers a second option that is less about technique and more about feeling.
“Simply place your hand on your heart,” she says.
By placing your hand on your heart you’re able to physically notice how you’re breathing. Once you notice how you’re breathing you will naturally start to regulate your rhythm.
“Most individuals relax after a hug or find physical contact relaxing; placing a hand on your heart is close to giving yourself a hug,” she added.
To start to understand where the anxiety stems from, Smith advocates for setting mental reminders to check-in with your breathing throughout the day. Sporadic check-ins can give you insight into what’s causing you to feel anxious and can help you stave off full-blown panic attacks.
“Noticing when you hold your breath can be enlightening. Your body gives clues to what you need; getting out of your head and into your body can be the challenge.”
Incorporating exercise, especially yoga, into your daily routine can make the process of ‘getting out of your head’ much easier and also help reduce feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious.
Why not make September your month to really see what yoga can do for you? Check out the clubs’ list of classes and make time to check in with yourself throughout the day.