Every fall one of my students, Ashley, always dreads having to give a presentation to the parents of her incoming elementary school students. Leading up to the presentations she feels her chest tighten and her breath shorten. Sometimes it feels like she can’t take a breath, and that makes her even more anxious. She worries that her nervousness will make a bad impression on the parents.
Ashley’s breathing difficulties are common among people who are stressed and anxious. Anxious breaths tend to be fast and constrained to the upper lungs. Scientists have shown that this fast, shallow breathing triggers mechanisms within the amygdala, your brain’s threat monitor, similar to those triggered by anxiety.
Ashley studied with me to learn how to use mindfullness and controlled breathing to calm her anxieties. She shared the results of her practice with me:
“This year was my most successful presentation, in large part due to mindfulness and controlled breathing. Every time I felt a wave of nervousness I noted, “Nervousness is here,” and practiced controlled breathing. It calmed me down. I did this several times in the hours leading up to the presentation and experienced a wave of calm each time. Once the presentation began, I felt more at ease than I ever had before. When I felt nervous during the presentation, I would take a slow breath, and it calmed me. Since I was calmer, I was more confident answering questions and talking with parents. In the past, I would drive home feeling embarrassed. This year I drove home feeling proud.”
This month, I will offer a special workshop where you will learn breathing techniques that help calm your nerves so that you’ll feel more at easy and are able to sleep better (details below). This is a great tool to have in your mindful toolbox, and something you can easily share with your friends and family. I hope you’ll join us.
In the meantime, “It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.”