14th April 2017 — Feeling Stressed? Overwhelmed? Rushed off your feet?

Then stop for a few minutes and come up for air; just breathe!

"But I don't have time!" I hear you say. Let me tell you, if that's the case you definitely need to do it!

Let me take you back to when I had just been diagnosed with M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I am standing, in quiet desperation, staring at the Self Help section in the bookshop. I need matchsticks to keep my eyelids from closing, my legs ache so much that I want to sit on the floor regardless of the fact that people will think me weird, and I am looking for that one book that will solve all my problems in one go. Just then my eyes fix on the spine of a book, which is tiny in comparison to the many others on the shelves.

The book is all about breathing and as I flick through the pages, I think someone must be trying to tell me something because the words that I pick up on are just so relevant to me.

I read how, when we are born, our bodies are programmed to breathe ‘properly’ and throughout life we can end up getting into bad habits with our breathing; it is these bad habits that can be the main cause of many of the symptoms of poor health.

There were times when I struggled to take a really deep breath. I felt like I was unable to really fill my lungs with air and this happened when I was at rest as opposed to doing anything active.

I always put it down to anxiety and just thought that it would pass once my problems went away. However, the book taught me just the opposite; if I learned to breathe properly again, this would in fact help with the anxiety, and potentially many more of my health issues.

I’m quite sure that my bad breathing habit started, or was at least made worse, during the last months of my late husband’s life. After all, for the 11 months that he was terminally ill I was in a permanent state of anxiety, ironically waiting for his last breath, and without knowing was probably holding my breath for most of the time.

The resulting symptoms of bad breathing can differ depending on when a person holds their breath; on inhale or exhale.

After doing more research, I discovered that holding the breath on inhalation, as I was doing, could, amongst other things, contribute to the symptoms of ME/CFS. Also that, holding the breath on exhalation could be a contributory factor to high blood pressure and many other conditions.

"The unconsciously altered breath allows you to survive but it does not allow you to thrive" — quote from The Breathing Book

As a result of reading this book and others, I started doing daily breathing exercises. A good time for me was first thing in the morning when I woke up, before getting out of bed, last thing at night before going to sleep and sometimes when I was driving.

Around the same time, I also began attending Yoga classes. For the first few weeks I had one to one sessions and my instructor said she had never known anyone with such a short breath as mine...within a few weeks, my breath was one of the longest she had known!

I always aim to have a brisk walk in the fresh air everyday and whilst out I take a few good deep breaths, which is so invigorating!

Better breathing definitely made a vast improvement to my energy levels and wellbeing and I will never get into bad habits again now that I am aware of the benefits of breathing!

I now have many useful Apps on my phone, which are a good aid to my meditation and breathing sessions.

For breathing, I particularly like the ‘Calm’ App, which has a useful tool to breathe along to.

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For breathing, I particularly like the ‘Calm’ App, which has a useful tool to breathe along to for however long you like, and having it on your phone means that it is with you at all times, so there’s no excuse not to stop and breathe for just 5 or 10 minutes every now and then. How hard can it be?

Believe me, it gives an instant boost to your energy levels, improves your state of mind and gives you an instant air of calm when the going gets tough! Why not give it a go everyday and notice what you notice?