Take a Deep Breath
When we are struggling, when we are interacting with difficult things, we are often encouraged to “take a deep breath.” Metaphorically, the idea is to slow down, regroup, and get your bearings. This metaphor has developed because it is genuinely helpful physically to take a deep breath. In fact, often, it is not until we physically slow down and take deep breaths that we can metaphorically take a deep breath and regroup.
Our bodies are made in such a way that when we feel stress, a part of our brain takes over (on some level) in which we are pushed into fight, flight, freeze, or numb. The old wisdom was that we would either engage (fight) or run (flight) but now we know that we can also freeze (just shut down) as well as numb (engage in things that will dull or blunt the feelings we are experiencing). When we breathe in deeply, our bodies calm down and we are able to move out of the pattern of fight, flight, freeze, or numb.
Over the last year, our bodies, minds, and spirits have taken on a lot of stress. I know that is the understatement of the century but I also know that today and coming days will fill us a lot of stress as well. Roughly half of the United States will likely be in a place of despair after the election. The other half may have feelings of elation and/or relief. Whatever the case, the stress will again be palpable and perhaps even more so because relational division is one of the most stressful things we can experience.
So, take a deep breath.
Take a deep breath as you consider what is coming and take a deep breath along the way and in the coming days. When you find yourself experiencing stress, breathe deeply. As a spiritual practice, breathe deeply.
On the physical side of things, many have suggested the 4-7-8 technique. Breathe in through your nose (drawing breath for 4 seconds), hold for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 seconds. Do this several times and notice your body start to calm.
Next, breathe spiritually.
Let me offer 3 R’s. Remember, Receive, and Rest. Remember that God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13). Receive that love as all that you need (Ephesians 3). Rest in His love as you let go of fear and anxiety (Matthew 6). Brother David Vryhof offers, “You need not fear any adversary when you know you are unconditionally and forever loved by God. There is nothing that can separate you from God’s love.”
A Way to Practice
First, engage simply in the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Go through this cycle of breathing until you notice that your body is calm. Second, utilize the following statements as you continue to breathe deeply. On the inhale, say the first part of one of the statements below (I remember, I receive, or I rest) quietly in your heart. On the exhale, repeat the second part of one of the three statements. Note: make sure you continue to breathe slowly and deeply.
- I remember … that You never leave me or forsake me.
- I receive … Your love for me as all that I need.
- I rest … in Your love as I let go of fear and anxiety.
This may sound simple and it is! Don’t let the simplicity fool you. It is profound. You will learn to regulate your bodily response to stress and you will deepen the spiritual connection that affects how you will encounter continued stress.
Lord, may we remember that your love is “as high as the heavens” and your faithfulness “extends to the clouds.” May we receive that love as all that we need. May we rest as we release fear and anxiety. Amen.