DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING: SIT THERE!

By David Delaney, MA, CAR, LPC                        david@boulderneurofeedback.com

Bob (I have changed his name) finds that he cannot stop himself from being on the go all day long.And then he has problems getting to bed and staying asleep.Sometimes in the middle of the night, when he cannot sleep, he will get up and read or get on the Internet, which further adds to the problem.He is overloaded and this overload is affecting his health and well-being.He came to me based on a recommendation by a client who thought that I could help him.

Pent up energy…

Sometimes we end up doing so much that we recognize we are overloaded and the ‘doing’ is some sort of mechanism that is not actually effective and is taking us in the wrong direction.Why would we need to check email many times daily?Wouldn’t a few times be effective, and then have some time to read something of interest and take a few moments to regenerate by closing our eyes and gently breathing?How about a walk to get your focus off the things that are weighing on your mind?

Fewer and fewer quiet moments…

Yet, we find ourselves more and more finding less and less quiet time in our lives.Many of my clients tell me that they cannot take quiet time.They have to have the television on when they are home or the radio has to be on.They wish that they could, but are unable to give themselves quiet moments where they are in repose.Something is keeping them from it, they say.

When we take time for repose, we are signaling our brain to relax and change modes.Yes, of course, we have to take action; that is the nature of this culture.However, unless we consciously shift gears, we do not give our organism the chance to de-stress and regenerate and we know that all organisms can regenerate themselves from the constant process of decay.This is basic science, which we may have forgotten.

Breathing and the Central Nervous System…

Breathing, slow and gentle, signals the Central Nervous System to relax and just ‘be’.When we consciously breathe, we send blood to the brain and trigger the release hormones into the bloodstream that induce the para-sympathetic nervous system (that which brings us out of fight and flight and into relaxation) release pent up stress, to discharge the reserve of held energy and move it through our system.When we consciously encourage this blocked energy to begin to move by way of breathing, we subsequently encourage mental, emotional, and physical relaxation.

So why do we resist doing it?

Because survival is our number one motivation, it can actually work against our personal well-being when we become overloaded.When stress accumulates in our system, it encourages more accumulation of stress unless we can learn to observe the signs and signals of stress within.I am angry with my partner and really, she has done nothing out of the ordinary.Or, I am eating more than I actually need. Or I am upset with someone to the point of obsession.Any time I am charged, it is probably indicating that I am overloaded and need to recognize and act to reduce that overload.

Now that charge can’t be helpful; if I am in a survival situation where I need reserve energy to deal with the threat it is helpful indeed.Past that, it can only deplete us and this is not the normal state to maintain in daily life.Creativity and clear analysis never happened in fight or flight.In addition, we can train ourselves to come out of fight or flight, what is called arousal, only when we recognize its signs and signals.

Noticing your breathing pattern is a central sign of your physical state.Is it shallow, or irregular, mostly in the upper chest?Or is it long, and, deep, and slow?

Time to Check In, Rather Than Check Out…

Checking in occasionally is helpful in monitoring and regulating ourselves to maintain internal relaxation and balance.Driving is a wonderful time to work on relaxation breathing since you receive instant feedback by feeling your back and buttocks against the seat.If you are breathing slowly and deeply, without straining, you feel the respiratory diaphragm at the based of your ribcage moving downward on the inhale and relaxing back up on the exhale.Try this and see what you discover?

Self-regulating…

Bob has been observing himself in the past few months and is able to better regulate his breathing throughout the day. He has noticed that he accomplishes more quality work and his sleep is improving too.He feels generally better and more relaxed and experiences less anxiety and panic in his day-to-day life.He never believed that focusing on breathing could have made such an impact.Now, he even tells others about its benefits and encourages friends and family to do the same.He has really learning the benefits of self-regulation and relaxation.