Weighty Matters

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4-7-8 Breathing

Weeks, or maybe even a couple of months ago, I first heard about 4-7-8 breathing.  An author I’m friends with talked about using the technique to help her with stress-induced insomnia.  I saw her post about it on Facebook a few times and that motivated me to investigate on the internet.

I’m not prone to insomnia when I first go to bed.  Truth be told, I’m so brain tired by 10-10:30 most nights, I fall asleep on the couch.  There are some nights when I look at the clock and wonder if 9 p.m. is too early to go to bed.

The sleep interruption affects me when I’m dealing with stressful stuff during the day, or have something bothering me and happen to wake up in the middle of the night.  Even if I just wake up for a quick trip to the restroom, if the stressful situation comes to mind, I can’t get rid of it.  I will think about it and think about it non-stop.  Sometimes the same phrase, sentence or conversation just repeats like a thought-hamster on a wheel.  I believe this might be something called “inefficient worrying”.  Honestly, when it happens, it does not accomplish anything positive.  I’m not working through the issue or resolving anything.  I’m just repeating thoughts, creating more stress, and depriving myself of much needed recuperation and sleep.

When I looked into 4-7-8 breathing, I found articles that described it as being helpful for reducing stress and anxiety.  I found a video of Dr. Andrew Weil talking about and demonstrating the technique which, if I correctly remember, originated in yoga practice.  It seemed easy enough so the very next time I experienced that middle-of-the-night hamster-thinking, I tried it for myself.  It worked!  I remember doing it three times and that’s all.

After that first night, I tried it again the next time I couldn’t fall back asleep and achieved the same result.  As I’ve whined about discussed several times, I’ve been experiencing a fair amount of extra stress in recent weeks, so I’ve had ample opportunity to demonstrate that, for me, the 4-7-8 technique isn’t a fluke.

I’ve done some additional investigation into it and have seen some suggest that it might be able to help me with some of my compulsive eating disorder.  For example, if I can be aware enough to do some 4-7-8 breathing when the urge to eat compulsively hits, or even if I’m still wound up when I sit down to a meal, the technique might help me settle before I reach for food.

Every day, I practice the technique at least twice a day, as Dr. Weil suggests. I’d like to develop it as a great and consistent tool.  It would be great if I could train myself to engage in this as a natural reflex.  Actually, I believe that with practice, I can do just that.  Any tool is a good one in this journey.

Do any of you do any kind of meditation or breathing technique?  Have you heard of 4-7-8 breathing and, if so, does it work for you?  I’d love to hear what things you’ve tried and found useful.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about it, this link will take you to the place on Dr. Weil’s site where it’s described.  From there you can also click a link to watch the video of his demonstration.


The Relief of Decisions

A month or so ago I talked about making a difficult decision to step away from an organization on whose Board I served. I didn’t fully understand how much stress I put on myself with that involvement until I no longer felt it after I resigned. (The friendship I was worried about has not gone completely south either. I think eventually we’ll be okay.)

About a week ago, I realized that I was in another situation that, while not stressing me out, was making me cranky. I had previously said to a group that I was interested in training as an instructor. Over time, I asked for a better idea of the path and process to achieving that and wasn’t given the information that I’d hoped for. It wasn’t the organization’s way. Then I saw some decisions made that puzzled me and, to be honest, hurt my ego. I thought I could process the emotions and thoughts and bring myself to a place where it didn’t bother me. I thought I could be patient. I was unsuccessful in both areas. With everything combined, it made me, like I said, cranky. I don’t like being cranky in my leisure activities. The emotions leached the enjoyment out of the activity and allowing that to happen just didn’t make sense.

Still, this was also not an easy decision. I am, at heart, a people-pleaser and it’s really difficult for me to make a change that’s better for me if I perceive that I’m going to disappoint someone else – particularly if the someone is a friend. Ultimately, I withdrew myself from consideration. My friend was disappointed but supportive. This was a welcome experience after the previous dust-up in the other situation. Overall, again, having made the decision I then felt relief and a reduction in stress and upset. I was happier and more relaxed in tonight’s class and that reinforced that I’d made the right decision. For me.

I don’t know why it’s so hard sometimes to choose actions and decisions that are right for me. Probably something to do with not wanting to be, or be perceived as, selfish. There’s a line to be determined between acting in a negatively selfish way and doing something that is necessary for my improved wellbeing. In my heart, I believe that I took actions that support my recovery. Regardless of how others may feel, I know I’m relieved and I’m sticking with them.

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