by Jonathan Robinson: If your life is at all like mine, it’s both busy and stressful. Most people handle the onslaught of stress they face by taking periodic vacations to recover from their life.
While vacations are a good idea, you can’t take one every time your life becomes hectic. In addition, taking a weekend or a week off to go to Hawaii doesn’t help you cope with anxiety once you’re back in the rat race. What’s needed is a simple way to let go of stress that can be done while you’re still in the stressful situation—not five days later. That’s why I created the One-Breath Technique. In twenty to sixty seconds of doing this powerful method, you can experience letting go of bodily tensions, negative emotions, and useless anxiety. It’s a wonderful gift to give yourself.
I created the One-Breath Technique (OBT) when I noticed how frequently something makes me impatient, uptight, or annoyed during the day. Without something to interrupt my stress, my minor upsets often snowballed into a momentum of negativity. Rather than using a technique that required taking several minutes away from the situation at hand, I saw the value of doing something right in the moment. The OBT can be done almost anywhere and, with practice, won’t even be noticeable by others. Despite its brevity, it can effectively interrupt the build-up of stress and frustration that can so easily happen in modern day life.
The first step in doing the OBT is to become aware that you’re stressed, upset, or could benefit from a mini-relaxation break. Next, observe the location in your body that you feel the most tightness or discomfort. For many people, they feel stress most noticeably in their shoulders, their chest, or their stomach area. Some people feel tension in many parts of their body simultaneously. Wherever you feel stress the most, imagine inhaling pure, soothing air into that area. Breathe as deeply as you can, first filling up your abdomen with air, then your chest. Once you’ve taken in as much air as you can, hold your breath for ten seconds.
During the time that you’re holding your breath, attempt to tighten all the areas of your body that feel stressed. For example, if your shoulders are tight, tense them even more—perhaps by bringing them closer to your ears. If your stomach feels uncomfortable, tense the muscles in that area (while you hold your breath)—as if you’re preparing for someone to hit you in the belly. Imagine squeezing the tension out of your body as you contract your muscles as much as you can. At the end of your ten count of tightening muscles and holding your breath, it’s time for you to fully relax. Let go of your breath with a long, slow sighing sound (if you’re in a place where making a sound is okay). While you’re letting go of your muscles and your breath, think to yourself, “Let it all go,” or some other simple phrase that works for you.
When you relax your muscles and your breath, you’ll notice a warm feeling of relaxation traveling through your body. Focus on the tingling warm sensations as they move through you. Notice if there are any parts of your body that still feel tight, and if so, try to let them go as well. Although it’s called the One-Breath Technique, you’re welcome to do it once or twice more if you need to, and if you have the time.
There are many minor variations you can do with the OBT to make it better meet your specific affinities and needs. For instance, you might want to visualize a relaxing scene immediately following exhaling your breath. Some people find it helpful to silently hum a favorite relaxing tune after they let go of their tension. Also, if you’re in a public area, you may need to be more conservative about tightening your shoulders or making any sighing sound as you exhale. As you practice this method, you’ll soon notice ways to adapt it to better meet your needs and preferences.
Once again, here are the steps for doing the OBT:
- Notice that you’re feeling stressed, and become aware of where in your body you feel tight.
- Slowly breathe in soothing air to the area you feel most tight—until you can’t inhale
- When your lungs are full, hold your breath for ten seconds. During these ten seconds, tighten
all the muscles in your body that feel tense, such as your shoulders, chest, and stomach area.
- After ten seconds, exhale with a sighing sound as you completely relax all your muscles.
During the exhalation, think of a phrase such as, “Let it all go.” Feel the warm sense of
relaxation energy as it moves through your body.
- Repeat if necessary, or if time allows.
Part of the beauty of the OBT is its simplicity. In less than a minute, you can interrupt your stressful reactions that can lead to a bad day, bad health, and ultimately, a bad time in life. Fortunately, because it is brief and can even be invisible to the people around you, there is no good reason not to use it. In fact, why not try it right now. I mean it. If you like it, perhaps you’ll get in the One-Breath habit. It’s one of the healthiest habits you’ll ever have. Right now would be an excellent time to begin.
Jonathan Robinson is the author of 12 books, a frequent guest on Oprah, and the co-host of the popular podcast Awareness Explorers. His latest book is “More Love, Less Conflict.” You can download his podcast on iTunes, and get for free his “12 Questions for Instant Intimacy with Anyone” at his site: MoreLoveLessConflict.com