FROM REACTION TO RELIEF: Breath by Breath By, Sariah Mikaels

Posted by Insight Directory on 19 March 2009 in Mental & Emotional Health
 When life sends us a curve ball in the form of a lost job, ended relationship, family crisis, or a myriad of daily stress inducing moments, we all have two choices before us. On the one hand we move quickly into reaction in all its glory. We hold our breath, brace ourselves and gut through the experience; we succumb to fear, creating anxiety, worry, illness, depression et al; we direct anger, blame, shame and more on others and then ourselves. In essence, in that instant reaction we jump into the turbulent river of the chaos before us without a life raft and exhaust ourselves simply trying to keep our head above water. We try desperately to swim upstream against all the resistance expending a lot of energy but never quite getting to the destination we seek. And so it goes, day by day until our bodies and lives reflect a state of chronic stress and turmoil.

 So what is the other option? BREATHE, AND…… BREATHE SOME MORE! Here is where we can choose to respond to the moment rather than react to it. What does that look like? What would that feel like? How would I begin to transform a reaction into a response you ask? In exploring this inquiry, let us first take a look at the dictionary’s definition of these two key words: Reaction and Response. Reaction is defined as “a reverse movement or tendency” while response is “…an answer or reply.” By definition alone, reaction takes us backwards whereas response leads us to a solution and choice. We can choose how we want to answer the dilemma facing us in any given moment rather than be the victim of it. To support that choice the first responsive action is to breathe. Yes, it is that simple although clearly not always easy or painless. By taking a breath we give ourselves the space to step out of the chaos and allow for the response, the answer and reply, to emerge. Each conscious breath can allow the body to shift from the biological fight or flight reaction to its counterpart, the relaxation response. In acute stress, the fight or flight mechanism invigorates us, increases the heart rate, gives us added strength and awareness. Automatically, the body balances this out with the relaxation response once the acute stress has passed. The heart rate slows down, the blood pressure lowers, the muscles relax and the body calms so that it can recover from its recent heightened state. With chronic stress however, the body’s natural relaxation response never kicks in and soon will wear under the pressure of this hyperactive state of being and symptoms will appear such as neck and shoulder pain, a weakened immune system, fatigue, muscle tension, depression and so on. 

Each conscious breath taken, allows the body to claim space to relax. The deep breath expands the tiny air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs filling them with life sustaining oxygen to be delivered to the blood and carried to every cell in the body. With each exhalation the carbon dioxide and toxins our released . Every involuntary breath does this replenishing and cleansing of our bodies. When we bring our conscious awareness and intent to the breath, we can begin to shift old patterns and assist the body to release the symptoms of chronic stress. We can step out of the instant reaction and give ourselves time to choose how we want to respond to the problem before us. Each conscious breath relaxes the body, calms the nerves and allows us to be responsible for our part in the exchange and can restore our ability to respond to our lives no matter what challenges arise.


Sariah Mikaels is facilitating a seminar on stress management through body and breath awareness on March 28, 2009. Her guidebook, Passion with Presence is utilized in a four part series that begins April 11, 2009. Sariah brings her experience as a Respiratory Therapist, Massage Therapist, Sound Healer, Teacher and Life Coach to her classes and private practice in Nevada City.



Sariah brings her experience as a Respiratory Therapist, Massage Therapist, Sound Healer, Teacher and Life Coach to her classes and private practice in Nevada City. 

Insight Healthy Living

10556 Combie Road, PMB 6379
Auburn, CA 95602
(530) 265-9255

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