In previous blogs we have explored how stress and anxiety affects our breathing, throwing our bodies out of balance, and leading to the physical symptoms which can cause panic.
While we have covered some simple breathing techniques; my ASCA therapist, Donna, suggested that I find a space where I could focus on my breathing and at the same time use my other senses to help relax my mind and body.
As we chatted we agreed that the gardens in Chiswick House were an ideal location for me. I described the walk I usually take with Leo, and Donna told me to do two things; firstly to focus on breathing from my stomach as I was walking around, and while doing this to take in the sights, sounds and smells around me.
Kim and I have been going to Chiswick House Gardens for years, and have taken loads of photos, so I was already pretty good at taking my time and looking at the smaller details, but was I truly relaxing and breathing?
I started to put Donna’s idea into practice (a slight challenge when you also have to keep your eye on an energetic puppy); I took in the smells in the air, the scent of the grass (especially when freshly cut), the different types of trees and flowers, their different colours and shades, the way the light shines through the leaves, the light and shade, the different types of birds and their songs.
Secondly, Donna told me that feeling textures can be very helpfully for grounding the body when you are anxious so, on my walks I touch the grass, the leaves, and even hug a tree or two, there are some beautiful large old trees in the gardens and they seem to give off a calm, wise energy (I must admit I check to make sure no one else is around when I hug trees, it shouldn’t really matter but it’s not normal behaviour to most people so I feel a little self conscious).
My ‘Space to Breathe’ is very dependent on the weather; some days are just plain grim and the thought of going for a walk is far from appealing, however having Leo has helped because he needs exercise every day, whatever the weather, so I have learnt to enjoy walking in the rain just as much as the sunshine.
Below is a picture of a woodland path which I call my Breathing Path; I love the way the light shines through the branches, and the way they bend over the path like long fingers, which feels comforting to me; it makes me feel sheltered and safe.
As I walk along the path I focus on my footsteps and my breathing, and a real sense of calm comes over me.
Take a moment to think where your ‘Space to Breathe’ will be, think of somewhere that makes you feel happy and relaxed; it may be a building, a body of water, somewhere in your own home; anywhere that is special to you.
Ideally try and find a quiet space, outside, so you also get exercise as well as fresh air.
When you find your ‘Space to Breathe’, take a mental note of the smells, the textures, sights and the sounds; visit your space regularly (I would suggest at least once a week), see how it changes every time you visit, and breathe in the calm.
You can share your ‘Space to Breathe’ on the ‘And Breathe….’ Facebook Group or on Twitter (include @MHDreamOn and the #spacetobreathe).
Thank you, thank you, thank you.