This blog post is brought to you by the 2004 Anna Nalick single, “Just Breathe,” made especially famous by a fantastic episode of Grey’s Anatomy involving Meredith’s premonitions, a live bomb inside a patient, and Kyle Chandler…
Have you all heard this song? Check it out: Just Breathe This is a song about darkness, resiliency, and one of the most helpful and versatile coping skills we have — deep breathing. The song tells the stories of three individuals who are struggling in different ways: first, a friend who is deeply unhappy in a relationship; second, a man who is trapped in the throes of addiction and substance abuse; third, the songwriter who is feeling anxious and vulnerable at the thought of sharing what she’s created. Three very different stories, one refrain: “Breathe, just breathe.”
As a counselor, I talk about breathing with almost every client. Many have tried it before, in some capacity, but admit that it isn’t something they think of or use as a coping skill on a regular basis. You may find yourself in a similar situation. So I want to take the opportunity to share how and why deep breathing is one of our best defenses against anxiety and panic — breathing is a superpower, y’all!
Our brains have different speeds, which are useful for different tasks, but when our brains are cycling too fast for too long (stuck in high gear), we experience anxiety. Sometimes, that anxiety is appropriate and warranted (i.e. you are being chased by a bear); sometimes, that anxiety is out of proportion to the event that has occurred and is now hindering your mental clarity and functioning. When you find yourself in that overstimulated state, what your brain needs most is oxygen. Your brain needs to slow down. As deep, oxygen-filled breaths make their way to your brain, you begin to experience relief from the physical aspects of anxiety as well as a greater mental clarity that allows you to see the situation for what it is and make appropriate adjustments to your thinking, environment, etc. Breathing deeply feels so good.
Let’s pivot back to our song. Here’s the bridge:
There's a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout
‘Cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again
If you only try turning around.
Each character in the story has a long way to go. Making your way through a dark situation takes time, persistence, wisdom, and support. Resiliency is taking that path toward healing, toward the light. If you find yourself in a difficult season, please find the support you need to help you along your way. Take one step at a time, remind yourself you are strong, and please remember to breathe.
Audrey Aukeman | Ma, LLPC