Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our bodies through diet and exercise. In the below column, Dr. Cara Wheeler offers a breathing tip to help ease our tension and anxiety.
By Cara Wheeler, Psy.D
Integrated Behaviorist – The Corvallis Clinic
A funny thing happens when we are children. Along the way of trying to learn how to interact with others, we often get the message that we need to “suck it in and stand up straight.” Well-meaning grown-ups tell us to become aware of our posture and so the awareness of our physical presentation to the world begins. Unfortunately, when we “suck it in” we are posturing our body to experience more anxiety. When we move most of our breath to our chest, we tend to feel more tense and anxious.
Think about this: If you watch a baby breathe you will notice that they breathe differently than us adults. Babies use their bellies to breath. With not a care in the world about how they look, they are doing what comes natural.
Then, think about how you breathe when you are sleeping. It is very likely that you let your belly muscles go and you take slower breaths that expand your diaphragm. Most people would say that they feel most relaxed right before they go to sleep, while they sleep, and immediately after they wake up. While there are many factors that contribute to this we should acknowledge that belly breathing plays a role.
So next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or rushed, take a minute to become aware of your breathing. Slow everything down let your belly muscle relax and take some good deep belly breaths!
Dr. Cara Wheeler is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in The Corvallis Clinic Integrated Behavioral Health Department. For details on what Integrated Behavioral Health is all about, go to Clinic Integrated Behavioral Health.