We’ve all heard the advice to breathe in and out slowly when we are stressed, and although that IS good advice – I think we can improve upon it with one more step.
Don’t just breathe – breathe fresh air, outdoors.
Just going outside moves you physically into a wider, open space – and the physical act of walking to the outdoors gives us the sense of moving away from a source of stress (even if we are carrying our pain inside of us).
Looking at nature, automatically takes my mind outside of myself, and I start to focus on things that are around me. Looking at the tree branches swaying in the wind, or looking at birds searching for food makes me realize that there’s a lot more to life than my own problems.
We are part of something more than just our own little lives. When our problems seem huge, we forget that life is huge. We forget about stars and volcanoes and asteroids and thunder. Going outside makes us, at some level, feel connected to something much bigger than ourselves. And we truly are a part of nature.
Breathe in, and realize that you are breathing in exchanged air from a nearby tree. Such life affirming connections really makes us feel that we are supported in our life by these wonderful parts of the natural world that surround us.
Lean up against a tree and feel that ancient sense of slow moving belonging. I really do enjoy the feeling of safety and comfort I get whilst my back is resting against the solid trunk of an old oak.
But here’s another take on stress.
Don’t worry about being stressed! It has actually been shown that to believe that stress is harmful – is actually physiologically harmful!
A kind of annoying fact, don’t you think? But also quite powerful if we learn to turn it around. If we can see that being stressed is a natural part of our body’s response to something difficult, and that in fact – the physiology of stress is simply our bodies preparing us to tackle the issue. If we feel gratitude for a racing heart – then we might take off a layer of unneeded stress. Stress itself isn’t a bad thing – so just breathe. Get outside and get some perspective on your life, and your problems. The stress will take care of itself with some inhaling and slow exhaling from you. And your problems will move to a more logical part of your brain, just give yourself some time.
All those trees around you have stood for possibly hundreds of years – there will be a tomorrow. Everything changes, and this too, will pass.
For now, go out, breathe in some real air and get grounded in nature.
You might still have the same issue to tackle when you get back inside, but feeling nature allows you to feel something else – and that small separation from the stress zone might be the wonderful break you’re looking for.