Breath is not just the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. For different levels of thought and emotion that you go through, your breath takes on different types of patterns. When you are angry, peaceful, happy or sad, your breath goes through subtle changes. Whichever way you breathe, that is the way you think. Whichever way you think, that is the way you breathe. — Sadhguru
I wake up in the morning with pain in my limbs and jaw as if my body was resisting something all night. My hands tremble. I also have very fast breaths as if I was running all night. This happens every day and I know this is because of the anxieties which follow me during the night as well.
It is the worst thing to wake up to as if my day has already been beaten and battered big time. There is a taste of failure already. It is also a reminder of how everything the day before did not go per the plan, or there was no plan to begin with, just a swamp of many uncertainties and dilemma, a constant lingering confusion as I start my full-time freelancing career.
Out of all the things that have changed for me in this new lifestyle, losing my sleep, or not getting a relaxed and healthy sleep, has been the biggest hit. I have always been a very good sleeper. I enjoy my eight hours of dreamland. I enjoy waking up to a strong day as evident by my positive physical and mental health as I open my eyes. But that has changed drastically these last months. I get nostalgic about my romance with sleep. Now I get anxieties even when I look at my bed.
This morning was no different as I woke up to a very fast paced breath. But I made a slight change. As difficult as it was, I forced myself to take deep long breaths. There was an urge to get on the panic train again and again but I kept bringing my attention back to my breath as it entered and exited my body and how my abdomen moved accordingly like a wave. There was a small miracle. I felt a bit better.
In fact, every single time I genuinely work hard to focus on my breath, it makes me feel better. It takes my mind away from the repetitive stories of the mind that trigger anxiety. This is a great break from the nonproductive mind churn. Instead, it lets my brain know that I am ready to relax now because my brain has identified this as a signal of tranquility and peace.
As I take deep breaths, my brain is hearing it as “ok vacation time”. Here I wind down. The longer I am here, my brain is convinced she is on her getaway, and so that thinking makes my breaths become more and more stable and soft paced. And I feel more and more at peace.
It really is a circle.
I would compare this to the situation where I am taking fast short breaths and it is sending a signal to my brain “trouble” and that “you are in the anxiety zone”, hence increasing further my fast breaths and increasing my anxieties.
So really what's working for me is to take a few deep long breaths, bring my attention back to my breath and swim in the stability and life that my breath is giving me at this point. This helps me break my cycle of panic and anxiety attacks.
Next time you or your loved ones are stuck in such cycles, try deep breathing. Try following your breath like it is your guiding angel. It does work. It is logical. It is magical. And it is an art. When we meditate on the flow of our breath, it leads us to the quiet corners inside us and helps us take our well-deserved breaks. We are in the flow of life here, our one natural shelter, our oasis.
As for getting my sleep back, I am still working on it. Perhaps this will be the first key step towards that goal.