The 7-Minute Scoop: Just Breathe...
Updated: Aug 10
At sometime in our lives, we will all have a traumatic experience that causes us to have a strong emotional or physical reaction. On most occasions though, these reactions subside as a part of the body’s natural healing and recovery process, but in the moment, they seem overwhelming. In this edition of Living With Hospice, Mitch discusses what happens in those few moments after trauma has occurred, and reminds us that sometimes something very simple - breathing - is the key to getting through it.
"...we are psychologically designed to deal with stress like this. We're designed to react to it without going into a panic attack, we just need to know a little bit more about how our body works in order to manage that reaction."
If you're like me, drama seems to just find you. It can come out of nowhere. It can come from any direction. And it can come at any time. It ranges from friends and relatives to business relationships, health issues, finances, just on and on and on. Sometimes when I get really bad news, my heart seems to just leap up into my throat. I get this big shot of adrenaline. And when we get those, we typically tend to hold our breath, we don't realize it, but we're holding our breath, our eyes dilate, our minds begin to race. Sound familiar?
Welcome to Living With Hospice, and a 7 minute scoop. My name is Mitch Ware, and in the next 7 minutes we are going to look at how to avoid some anxiety attacks, as well as how to minimize their effect on us.
We as humans try to process everything that's going on in the world around us in a split second, then we feel the need to formulate a plan of action to deal with it. In the meantime, we're breathing very fast, we're breathing very shallow, our hearts start pounding in our chest, and we continue to breathe harder and more quickly, all in an effort to distribute oxygen rich blood around in our bodies. The net result of this, our bodies don't have time to exchange the carbon dioxide in our lungs with the oxygen that we're taking in. And we're pretty much depriving oxygen to all the places that matter most, our heart, our lungs, our brain… then we go on like this, sometimes for several minutes, sometimes for hours, and some of us have a full-blown panic attack. Take heart, there's good news. This is all avoidable, the panic attack, the anxiety attack. It's all avoidable.
All of us feel stressed out from time to time, all of us! It is just part of the emotional ups and downs of life. Stress comes from many different sources, it can come from our environment, it can come from within our own bodies, it can even come from our thoughts. It can come from how we view the world around us. And in the time of this recording, believe me, the world around us seems to be falling apart in our own hometown, in our state, certainly in our nation and around the world. And it's very natural to feel stressed around moments of pressure like this, or moments of ‘distress’ like this. Did you know that we are psychologically designed to deal with stress? We're designed to react to it without going into a panic attack, we just need to know a little bit more about how our body works in order to manage that.
When we feel stressed, the nervous system instructs our bodies to release some hormones. They are called ‘stress hormones’. It's adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These produce psychological changes in us to help us cope with the threat or the danger that we're facing at that moment. This is also called the ‘stress response’. Did you know that stress can actually be positive dress response …. to fight or flight and can really help us. It can help us be alert, it can motivate us to do things we otherwise wouldn't do, like run across the yard to pull a kid out of a swimming pool that is drowning or lift a car off of someone who is being crushed. As the stress declines or recedes our body rebalances and we start to feel calm again. However, and this is a really important note, continuous activation of the nervous system experiencing the stress response, the fight or flight, really can cause wear and tear on our bodies especially our brains. I don't know about you, but when I'm under stress, I immediately go into mental processing mode. And I do so at warp speed. And I started thinking about what's just happened and what's happening next. I start to formulate a plan of action. Flight or fight! I breathe with my shoulders, not my diaphragm, and I breathe fast. Have you ever thought about how you're breathing during a time of stress? Probably not lol. Some people actually hyperventilate when they face a high stress situation. They go oh my gosh, I feel dizzy … got to sit down and feel sick to my stomach. And this is exactly why. For the record, it's not just the big things that can bring on the stress responses, little things can to thinking about something like a Bill, a bill it's like overdue or you want to pay and you didn't or you forgot or whatever, or a lack of money at the end of the month or an illness or the death of a loved one or the neighbor's house burned down and your mind is going in a million directions. Oh my goodness, what happened? We need to help these people. What can we do? And sometimes, all of these things can happen at the same time, issues with bills, issues with relationships, how can I help? What am I supposed to do? What next? And when they do, we go back into that stress response. And our breathing gets shallow, a heart starts beating out of our chest and we start to get a little lightheaded. We're depriving our bodies of the necessary balance of gases it needs to function properly.
So, the key lies in how we breathe. It may feel unnatural to breathe deeply during times of high stress, but it works! Take a deep breath. This deep breath provides various benefits, it allows your body to fully exchange the incoming oxygen with the outgoing carbon dioxide. It's also been shown to slow our heartbeat lower and stabilize our blood pressure. And most importantly, to lower our anxiety. Overall, doctors tell us we really need to take a very deep breath. And then as you exhale, count to 10. Repeat as many times as you need to, until you feel yourself calming down. This helps us not only minimize the immediate physical effects of the clutter of anxiety in our mind, but it also allows us to think more clearly about what we're facing in the entire situation and how we're going to deal with it.
In summary, hey, we all get stressed out sometimes. We all have a day where something happens and we are over whelmed with thoughts, feelings and anxiety. Taking a time out to breathe deeply helps us manage that anxiety. Sounds simple, and it is, but it works!
And there you have it, the answer is to just breathe!! Breath deep and regain your perspective.
With another seven minutes scoop from Living With Hospice, this is Mitch Ware. Have a blessed day.