So many of us are facing really difficult challenges right now and we’re sending you compassion for whatever you may be facing. When thinking about how we can best support you, we thought it would be useful to give you a tool to handle the smaller things that do come up.
Maybe you spilled coffee on yourself, the kids made a surprise cameo on your Zoom work call, or the dog chewed your new shoes and you just can’t stop obsessing over it.
We actually have a natural tendency to play things on repeat, so to speak; it’s called rumination. And, because of how our brain and nervous system are ultimately hardwired to keep us safe, we have a tendency to dwell on the negative more so than the positive. This ‘negativity bias’ means we naturally fixate on and inflate perceived troubles, bad experiences, and worries.
And that’s precisely how 10-minutes turns into a “bad day.”
OK, you might be thinking, if this is how my brain works, then what can I do about it? Good question!
First, simply being aware of this process may, in fact, alleviate a lot of stress. We can recognize (and normalize) our dwelling tendencies for what they are — a very normal neuropsychological process that safeguards us from threats.
But, when we’re ready for our inner Positive Polly to take the wheel from our Negative Nelly, try this fast-acting breathing practice we use to quickly shift our mindset and soothe our stressed nervous system.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing (aka, belly breathing) — with a long, slow exhale that lasts longer than the inhale — stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps to slow heart rate and regulate blood pressure. We can use this practice to tell the brain and nervous system that everything is OK, and it's time to relax. This is also a really good practice to use when anxious thoughts are keeping us up at night. 😴
Here’s how it goes:
Take a deep, 3-second inhale, making sure your belly fills and rises on the inhale.
Now, exhale for 4 to 5 seconds (a tad longer than the inhale), while releasing and flattening the belly.
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, try this while listening to our “Two-Minute Stress Reliever” meditation in the app. In fact, this is a great one to practice a few times daily. Set your phone alarm periodically throughout the day. When it goes off, put on the meditation and get in some good, belly breaths. You deserve it, friend.