Here is another exercise in becoming more attuned with your body so we can stay calmer during crises and other times as well. Now with the understanding that the highly sensitive body is vulnerable to the shallow-breathing fight/flight/freeze reaction, commit to designating a day where you make observing your breath a priority. This takes a fair amount of energy to accomplish so even a block of 4 or 6 hours would be a good start. It should be a normal day of activities and not a day of pure vacation mindset.
Check Your Breathing As You Go
Start your day when you wake up by noticing your first breath and first thought. Try to take a deep breath and steady your breathing. Then allow the thoughts of your day ahead to come and go. With each new thought, check-in if your breath is shallow, regular, or deep. You may be surprised how often you have returned to shallow breathing when you’re challenged by different thoughts, actions, schedules, decisions, health issues, work, or relationships.
As you go about your day, try to be immediately mindful of your breath as often as possible. Every 5 minutes would be excellent, however, if you feel it actually makes you feel more anxious or pressured to do so then we are defeating the purpose. So let’s say every 30 minutes, and put a pop-up message on your phone for every 30 minutes that says “how am I breathing right now?” Then correct your breath by a deeper breath if need be and return to normal, non-shallow breathing.
Quieting the Cortisol Stress Hormone
At the end of the period, you have chosen to partake in the exercise, take a solid assessment of anything and everything you felt and feel. You may be amazed at what you learned about your body. If you can continue the exercise through until bedtime, I believe you will notice a notable difference in your sleep. Nearly all HSP’s have to grapple with sleep issues at one time or another. Quieting the cortisol stress hormone release throughout the day has been proven to increase the quality of our sleep, at the very least.
Short and Long Term Repercussions of Shallow Breathing
When I have done this (and try to regularly), I am stunned over and over how often I have returned to shallow breathing. I could probably write a book on the short and long term repercussions of shallow breathing on our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health! Better sleep is only one such effect.
The effects are much deeper than you might imagine:
- muscle spasms
- feeling ungrounded
- significant energy loss
To name a few.
I realize there are thousands of such books out there on mindful breathing, however, this exercise pertains to we HSPs and specifically to our tendency to breathe shallowly! Learning to be more aware on a daily basis means soon you can bypass your next anxiety attack.