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Breath At Times Of Anxiety

Looks can be deceiving!

I look happy here but this was the beginning of a challenging evening. I made the mistake of checking out of my hostel in Vancouver to go on a mini adventure - it often feels worth the risk to put myself in situations unknown.

This time, it didn't work out.

I had not done my research finding out too late Vancouver has an under supply of accommodation. When I arrived back in the evening all the affordable beds were taken for the next three nights! 15 hostels and inns within the a half mile radius. It was now 23:30 and 2% charge on my phone. I was not in a strong position. I gratefully found a shopping centre open for the next half hour charging my phone and searching the web for accommodation.

Caught unaware

Part of me thought this was hilarious and another part found it exciting. As the next few hours unfolded I became increasingly aware of anxiety. I was fascinated by it. Nothing terrible had actually happened so my intrigue lay in an understanding what I was anxious about. During this time I became aware of multiple parts to myself. People are never one thing. Though anxious I was still enjoying the excitement of the situation and also getting increasingly frustrated.

Flipping between the two it dawned that this flood of emotions was a sign of something more indicative.

I was breathing poorly.

Breathe! All these feelings and no breath.

It is becoming standard practice to become aware of my breath. I enjoy the process of and the ability to change patterns or implement something more useful for the situation.

I reflected how easy it is to be open to breathwork when things are good but what about in the low times or even crisis? Becoming conscious of my breath was remarkable. This was by no means a crisis but I got a sense of not being in full control of the situation. A moment to practice what I preach! I chose a gentle, nurturing breath helping to ground into what was real and present at this moment in time.


Diaphragmatic Breathing: (It always makes me smile when I see the name of this breath. The diaphragm is essential to breathing so just why it is called that makes me chuckle.

1. Sitting in a comfortable position, allow your spine to lengthen as your place one palm on your belly and the other on your chest.

2. Breath in and notice which palm moves first and the pattern of the movement. Does the top hand move first, does the bottom one stay still? Enjoy the observation without changing your breath if you can.

3. Begin to notice the tension that is 'holding' the belly. We all have it... even good breathers hold something. Before the inhale, imagine letting your belly relax into your bottom palm and then inhale. We would like the lower (belly) palm to move outwards with the inhale and soften back into us on the exhale.

4. Aim not to push the exhale out exploring how gentle and relaxed it can be.

5. Continue breathing in this way for 3-5 minutes.


Practicing this breath, things changed very quickly. No longer flipping from excitement to fear, an edge was taken off. A sense of calm and level headedness. It was less exciting but also grounded and peaceful. Realising I was no better off then 5 minutes ago I marvelled (as I often do) at breath work.

Trust took the place of fear. I found myself calm and trusting. Now I had choices and each felt as valid as the other. To commit to finding somewhere to stay, to experience a night on the street or maybe to enjoy my creative potential?

Armed with breath the city was alive with possibilities.

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