It is quite common for both the expectant and postpartum mother to experience periods of
anxiety. This uncomfortable state can be mild, with shallow breathing and racing thoughts, or
more intense, including irrational fears that may feel overwhelming. In either case, focusing on
the breath can be an immediate anxiety reliever.
I recently learned in an anatomy class how expansive our lung capacities actually are. Our
lungs span from our upper chest down to below our ribs and around to the sides and back of
our bodies. That is a lot of area that our breath inhalation should be covering. For so many of
us, our inhale is shallow and never reaches down to our lower ribs and around to the sides of
our diaghram unless we are involved in a cardio workout. So, in our day to day lives when we
are washing dishes, or as a mother changing our baby or even nursing, our breath does not
typically reach below our upper chest. If you can visualize the expansiveness of your lungs,
while breathing it is then possible and even probable that you can significantly decrease your
feelings of anxiety.
To reduce anxiety, I recommend that you inhale by breathing down into the abdomen, and
visualize your breath moving into the sides of your body as though you were adding wings. You
can count to 4 or 5 while inhaling and then count a steady exhale of 6 or 7 seconds. While
exhaling, it may be useful to visualize blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. This can be
practiced several times a day. Giving your full attention to this simple exercise can decrease
the simple worries of the day or the more intense bouts of anxiety that can creep up. As a
practitioner, many of my clients feel the anxiety the strongest in the morning hours. I often
recommend taking a few minutes to practice this breathing technique before the day begins.
Even 3 rounds of inhales and exhales can make a calmer and more emotionally steady day.
Remember, anywhere and anytime, this can be practiced. You do not need anything more than
yourself and your breath.
Breathing Can Change Everthing
Dr. Robin Muskal