Take Your Own Oxygen First
Talking with a dear friend of mine I mentioned I was struggling with writing an eNews because I hadn’t done one since May. My struggle was not on what to write but how to make up for the months that I hadn't. My friend looked at me and said “Sue, you don’t have to apologize or explain what happened during that time, just write it”. WOW, what a freeing thought.
So here I am and this actually feeds into my topic of “Take Your Own Oxygen First”.
I was reading a book written by my friend Jim Smith which is a fantastic little book about living in Happiness and provides tools to help you get the most from your life. You can view Jim’s ““The 13 Principals of Happiness” or buy the book "Happiness at the Speed of LIfe".
In Chapter 2, Jim talks about “Taking Your Own Oxygen First”. You know the drill when you fly “in the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartment… If you are traveling with a small child or someone who needs assistance put on your own mask before helping others with theirs.”
The message for me was “BREATHE”. Not a new concept for me, but definitely one that rears its ugly head as a reminder that I’m not paying attention to what “I need for ME!”
In my work I see many successful people that hold their breath or breathe shallow and are plagued with the stress and tension. When they tell me "I have no idea what to do" I observe the classic flight, fight, or freeze” behavior (more in next months eNews on that topic).
Do you hold your breath or breathe shallow? Many of you are saying, “Not me, I breathe just fine”. So let’s just do a little experiment, okay? You have time, it will only take a few minutes!
Where you are right now, stop; and put your feet on the floor. Now, close your eyes and take a deep breath in and hold it till you can’t anymore. Notice what happens to your body. What happened to your shoulders? What happened to your chest? Where do you feel tension? Good, just notice that.
Now, close your eyes and take a deep breath in and slowly blow it out of your mouth. Pretend there is a candle lit in front of you that you don’t want to blow out and slowly exhale all the breath in your lungs. Repeat this process 3 times.
What do you notice now? What shifts are you aware of? What does this little experiment tell you about yourself? Are you “Taking ENOUGH of Your Own Oxygen First”?
Dorothy Siminovitch, an inspirational teacher and coach has a wonderful saying that continues to focus me and build my capacity to breathe, “Anxiety is excitement without breathe”.
Webster’s defines “Anxiety” as “a painful or apprehensive uneasiness, fearful concern or interest, overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension and increased pulse), doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”
And “Excitement” is defined as “to arouse to an emotional response by appropriate stimuli”.
When you’re not taking your own oxygen you are shutting off the resource that can provide information to move you in a positive direction. You are “feeding” the anxiety, stress, apprehension, fear, and self-doubt. Cutting off your oxygen supply cuts off your ability to think clearer, problem solve accurately, become aware of the what is keeping you in a state of “flight, fight or freeze”.
Are you ready to build capacity to breathe and think clearer versus responding emotionally or not at all? What do you have to loose? Except the “flight, fight or freeze” response that probably no longer serves you well.
The next time that anxiety stimulus rears its ugly head, stop, notice your breathing, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths in and slowly let it out (keep the candle imagine there and don’t blow out the flame). If 3 breaths doesn't help, take a few more till you can feel the anxiety subside and you can think clearer.
WARNING: if you get lightheaded or dizzy, your body is telling you that you are taking in more oxygen than normal and needs to adjust to this new way of breathing. Slow down, breathe a little less deeply, and keep practicing. You will build your capacity and ability to breathe deeper.
A resource that helped me recognize the benefits of breathing and provides exercises to build your capacity is The Master Key to Self Healing By Andrew Weil, M.D. You can buy the CD’s or download them at Amazon .
Remember…. “Give Yourself Oxygen First”!
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