Breathe before you answer the question.
They have time for you
to take one.
If they don’t have time for you to take in the air you need to live,
Your breath is your power.
Your time is your gift.
There are only a few situations where we lose control over our ability to take a breath, and they are truly terrifying. A long, deep breath buys us time, clears the mind, and soothes the nervous system.
So often I look back - even five minutes after an interaction - and think how I could have been calmer and less flustered. Ordering a coffee, answering the phone, crossing the road.
Nobody was rushing me, why was I giving myself so little time and space? Subconsciously, I’ve been so insecure that I'm trying to leave before I even arrive.
How would it be if I slowed it all down?
Took a breath.
Took up space.
Taking just a few deeper, longer breaths would slows my heart rate and relaxes my blood vessels. Slowing your breathing is one of the most effective and most accessible ways of reducing the cortisol levels that build up in the body every time we meet a 'stressor'.
If, like me, your baseline stress level is already pretty high, even the smallest environmental stressors can cumulatively build very quickly into a situation where it's hard to cope. I notice that my breaths are light and tight, my muscles are contracted and my brain is already on the edge of 'fight or flight'. Starting from this context, imagine an emotional trigger added to the mix. It's game over.
So, I'm learning to lower my baseline.
I'm not consciously nervous about going into a cafe and ordering a coffee, so why is my body and my breathing in such a rush?
If you people-watch in a cafe for a while, you can visibly notice the people who are comfortable in their own skin and those who aren’t. Who has the space to take a breath? When this is not your natural way of being it can feel really impossible to achieve, but I think of it as something to aim towards. It's almost worth saying in my head: 'I am allowed to be here. I am doing okay'.
And then taking a breath.
Yes, this is absolutely over-thinking things (who knew ordering a coffee could be so complicated?) but for me, small practices like this are subtle ways of re-wiring the way my brain works in the world. Daily habits of slower and deeper breathing for five or ten minutes can bring down my baseline and prepare my body's physiology to stay more relaxed in any given situation. Following Breathpod has been a wonderful way to feel supported in this practice.
So next time I get caught off-guard answering even the simplest of questions, I'm going to try and breathe. The world will wait for me to breathe. From there, I can respond rather than react, and this makes all of the difference.