For many, October is the rubber meets the road, super-intense, super-crazy part of the fall semester. It's the time when we start feeling that we're living inside the checklist and that feeling of overwhelm starts washing over us. For me, a sure sign of this time of year is that my breathing patterns change to quick, shallow, near-hyperventilation patterns, and I can feel my heart starting to race.
The pace of life at these moments contributes to stress on the adrenal glands, which are primitive parts of the body, trying to keep you prepared for fight or flight. The bad news is that you can't really flee the month of October and as for fighting it, I'm not so sure.
The good news is that simple breath practice can both reduce the feeling of overwhelm and support our overtaxed adrenals. For example, becoming aware of triggers for racing feeling and shallow breath allows us to apply breathing techniques to these stressful moments: Be they the 5 minutes before lecture, or heading in to a faculty meeting. Taking five to consciously sit with the breath can be calming. Simply sit with the eyes closed, and breathe slowly through the nose, counting the breath for a long slow inhale and then a long slow exhale, Bringing the focus here, and working on the extension of the breath calms the body and draws the mind inward and out of the list.
Simple twists can also support the adrenals and may be tied to the breath. From a seated position, try slowly inhaling the arms overhead in time with a very slow inhale, On an equally slow exhale, release the arms down, taking the hands to the floor on one side, coming into a gentle twist. Repeat this process, moving side to side, connecting inhalations to arms overhead, exhalations to twists.
In very busy times, taking 5 minutes to breathe may seem like a luxury. But how silly it is to call breathing, the thing that keeps us alive, a luxury.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote