Updated: Apr 1
Earlier this year, when my menopause symptoms were at their peak, our family was hit by coronavirus. My youngest daughter got it first and I slept in her room while she battled a temperature and cough. It didn’t take long to pass to me and I spent nearly a fortnight in bed.
Until that happened to me, during my 42 years on this planet, I don’t know about you but I hadn’t really given much thought to breath. I had done a bit of deep breathing when I suffered panic attacks and anxiety, things I now know were early warning signs that my hormone levels were changing and I was entering perimenopause, but it wasn’t habit that had stuck.
Coronavirus changed all that. On repeated nights I felt as though someone was slowly tightening a belt around my chest and I struggled to breathe. For at least a week it felt as though no air reached the bottom of my lungs.
In order for my lungs to heal after the virus I was sent some information on breathing exercises by my GP and told to perform them regularly. This is where my interest began and it is not an exaggeration to say that learning to breathe mindfully has changed my life.
So why am I telling you all this and what does it have to do with helping you with what you are going through?
By far the biggest change I have noticed, since adopting regular breathing awareness into my life, is in my menopause symptoms. I have gone from regular anxiety, worry and fear, to living with a much calmer mind. I am aware of my breathing a lot more now and with the power of breath I can stop myself spiraling out of control when things get tough. I can keep a lid on my stress and I quickly recognize when I need to slow down, step back and take some time out.
I have had clients who have reduced their resting heart rates significantly by taking up a regular breathing practice and it is something I recommend to anyone I know who is struggling with menopause symptoms.
So how do you start building breathing exercises into your life? My recommendation is to start slowly with your morning routine and build from there.
HERE ARE MY TOP 5 TIPS:
1. MORNING ROUTINE When you wake up each morning, don’t rush straight out bed, just lie there and enjoy the silence for a moment, before taking 7 deep, luxurious breaths to kickstart your day calmly.
2. BREATHING APPS Download a breathing app to your phone and get it to send you reminders a few times a day to stop for a minute and concentrate on your breathing. There so many to choose from, most of which are free, so download a couple and see which one works for you.
3. BREATHING EXERCISES When you feel anxiety or stress beginning to build, try breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4 and pausing for a count of 4. Repeat 4 times and try to focus only on counting.
4. BELLY BREATHING Lie on your back, make sure your shoulders are relaxed away from your ears, close your eyes and put your hands on your stomach. Start to breathe in and out fully. You should feel your hands rise as your body fills with air, then feel them drop back down as you exhale. You can breathe in your regular rhythm but be aware of each breath and notice the sensations as you begin to relax.
5. SMALL BEGINNINGS Building mindfulness habits into our lives can be difficult at first but you will very quickly see the benefits if you stick with it. Start small for just a minute or two and build from there. It is also really important to practice your breathing when you are in a good place rather than just at times of stress or anxiety. With enough practice you will learn to recognize that those feelings are building and be able to use your breathing tools to ward them off before you spiral out of control.
“Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health. If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly. There is no single more powerful – or more simple – daily practice to further your health and wellbeing than breathwork.”