Quieting the Squirrel Mind and Reduce Anxiety

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My dad was a psychologist, so I started reading some of his psych books from the time I was a teenager. And since I had issues (like everyone else in the world!), and since I had no stigma against therapy (it’s not so much I’m OK and You’re OK, it is more like I’m a bit crazy and so are you, haha), I have had many therapists over the years for various reasons (bad breakups, marriage counseling, not feeling worthy, etc.). Judy has been my therapist for over 25 years. This is a tool she gave me which I pass along to all of my dental phobic patients. This crazy challenging pandemic has been making me a tad anxious on numerous levels. I am sure it is affecting some of you the same way. The following breathing exercise will help you feel better and function better. Stay safe and happy.

3 Part Breath to Reduce Anxiety and Quiet the Mind
Judy Liu Stoltz PhD, Life Coach & Therapist

This is a 3 part breath. The recommendation is to do all 3 in sequence. However, if you just have a moment part 1 or 2 can still be very helpful. This breath was developed over the years from seeing what works best for most of my clients and from some of the latest neurological research. Research has shown that this breath reduces cortisol (stress hormone), quiets the mind and can even increase serotonin (the feel-good hormone). The key to this breath being most effective is to breathe in sensation. In other words, imagine breathing through your feet, then your ankles, etc. FEEL the breath move through every cell. Feeling two sensations can quiet the parts of the brain that are about thinking. (Sensations being sight, sound, smell, touch, etc). Since you always have your body with you it is possible to feel your breath move through you as you feel every muscle or body part.

PART ONE: Being fully present in THIS moment, and bringing all your focus and attention to within you, close your eyes and imagine breathing (through your nose) from the center of the earth up through your feet, ankles, legs, diaphragm, heart and through your entire body all the way up through your head and the tip of your head to All That Is . . . breathing in through your nose, expanding your chest as you inhale, receiving. Then retracing all the way back down through your toes on the exhale (through your nose OR mouth) as you relax every cell, releasing and letting go of EVERYTHING on the exhale, out your feet and to the center of the earth. Repeat this 3 -5 times.

PART TWO: Continuing to breathe in exactly the same way as above, this time (still breathing in sensation), count to 6 on the inhale, hold your breath (don’t let any air out!) for the count of 8, then exhale ALL AT ONCE through your mouth (let it rip!). Be present to any “holding on” to the exhale and let it all go . . . all at once. You will find it is very difficult to be breathing in at least two sensations AND counting . . . to be able to still think. Repeat this 5-8 times to quiet the mind.

PART THREE: Continuing to breathe in sensation, but in a rhythm that is comfortable and natural for you. (This is a light and easy breath now, still all the way up on the inhale, and exhaling all the way down). Listen to the sound of water, or music without words or smell a flower or essential oil THAT YOU LIKE AND ENJOY. Continue to breathe in APPRECIATION or GRATITUDE, which is to soften and breathe through your heart. If you can access enjoyment or appreciation then you are there. Simply abide in the space for 5-10 minutes . . . breathing with gratitude without thought. This can promote the increase of serotonin.

Still breathing consciously in the way described, very slowly allow your eyes to open as you continue to breathe through you, even now with your eyes open, Notice how the mind wants to take over again and return your focus on the sensation of your breath through your heart AS YOU ARE ONCE AGAIN IN THE WORLD. This is to strengthen awareness within as well as awareness of that which is without.