Emotional Health: how to stay sane when everything around you seems insane
Last month, I talked about Buteyko breathing and how breathing “light” can transform your health. Breathing light can not only transform your tissues, but also your mind and the way you react to stress.
Mental health is one of the leading concerns we face in America today. Our mental health covers a wide spectrum, ranging from us functioning successfully, albeit while under emotional stress, to those of us ineffectively functioning and feeling imbalanced; allowing the stress to control us. Everyone has a mental state of being, and it does normally fluctuate day to day; even moment to moment. Mental illness and emotional imbalance can be severe and individuals who fluctuate from one end of the spectrum to the other are experiencing both mental hurdles as well as a serious imbalance in their physical hormones; these cases should consult an appropriate doctor for treatment. For the rest of our community, everyone’s mental state still fluctuates within what is considered a manageable, normal range.
It is through mindful awareness that a person can navigate those mental fluctuations more easily and with less suffering. Compare an emotional fluctuation to a fluctuation in your physical balance. Consider when you wake up feeling stiff and sore from activity done the day before. This physical feeling is temporary, and moving, as well as stretching, can help alleviate the physical discomfort. Similarly, using breath, movement, and reflection or meditation you can move away from the temporary mental state of imbalance to one where suffering or stress becomes manageable. Moving and breathing is the best thing you can do for both your mental and physical conditioning.
This article is focused on those minor fluctuations in mental and emotional state. Its purpose is not to downplay the seriousness of emotional or mental imbalance that requires professional guidance. It’s important to realize that there are trained professionals who understand body chemistry and how to apply it alongside other techniques that help with serious emotional imbalance.
Emotions can be very difficult to navigate and with so much going on around us, they can seem to overtake how we feel in our bodies. It can seem like our head is disconnected from our body when our thoughts and emotions are heightened and swirling around like a tropical storm. Many people who are suffering from emotional imbalance find that they lose track of how they feel in their body. They are constantly worrying, planning, or thinking, and it’s typically about something in the past, the future, and rarely is it in the present tense. Before too long, their thoughts have taken over and the body is on autopilot. This is when accidents happen.
During worry and anxiety, the body goes into stress response causing the breath to change and become shallower. This shuts down the digestive organs so that more blood goes to the extremities. That may be why someone’s heightened emotion allows them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. The brain can quickly respond to changes in the breath and our survival depends on that. Just like a stress response, the brain also responds to relaxation. A slower deeper breath allows the body to rest and digest, sending more oxygenated blood to the digestive track. You can change your emotional response in the brain just by changing the way you are breathing. Change your breath, change your mind, change your mind, change your response.
The way to calmness is through your breath and your mindfully transferring the awareness of the emotions into your body. There is a short period of time when your nervous system realizes that your emotional button has been pushed and goes and notifies the brain that it’s time to react. This moment can be defining in how your emotions play out: catch it, pause, feel, and breathe, and you may notice a different outcome. Even if all you do is take the pause and notice your breath, you will have slowed your system down enough to make the outcome slightly different. Imagine slowing down even more. Notice that your button has been pushed, bring attention to your breath, where do you feel the button in your body, take one more breath, then roll with it. The level of stress on your system and likewise the amount of stress hormones that you produce will reduce making the outcome different both in your mind and body. Change your physical reaction to the stress by adding awareness and a few mindful slow and deep breaths to your emotional equation. Yoga teachings say that when you slow down your breath, you can slow down your thoughts. This is also the secret to understanding the benefits meditation.
Mindfulness takes practice! Here are some simple steps to consider for your mindful practice to support emotional health:
Catch yourself worrying, planning, or thinking, and bring your thoughts present to what is happening right now;
Feel sensations in your body;
Slow down your breath, and remind yourself that all is ok in this moment;
Continue to breathe lightly but deeply into your belly;
Reassess the situation;
Tamara Gillest, MS, Certified Yoga Therapist, E-RYT-500
Tamara has her Master’s degree in Science and is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Educator of Yoga and Buteyko. She currently offers individual and group yoga therapy sessions, as well as Buteyko Breath Education at her studio in West Seattle. Tamara collaborates with health care professionals to support and improve individual health and quality of life with a non-invasive, nurturing experience.
Adding this to pull out the delta between what you can help with vs. those cases where you need to do more.
Adding “you” to compliment the “your” a few words back.
I’d change this to “capture that moment” I think this makes your point better if I’m understanding it right.