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Published on November 09, 2016

numbers on a track

If You Can Count, You Can Tame the Toxic Tension in Your Day

You’re like everyone else, and you’re not really using your lungs much.

In fact, most people use about 10 percent of their lungs through the course of a normal workday. Stop for a second and think about times in your day when you actually find yourself breathing shallowly, or holding your breath in concentration – you’ll quickly see that this observation makes a lot of sense. Part of the reason you, like most folks, under-utilize your lungs is because you’re holding onto a lot of tension and stress.

Avera McKennan Fitness Center Mind-Body Exercise Instructor Denise Nelson coaches friends, family and clients daily on the amazing return on investment that can come from a simple breathing exercise, one that you can do every time you have a big meeting, a nerve-wrenching presentation or a big talk with your spouse or family member.

“It’s amazing what big, deep, full breaths can do for your body and your brain,” said Nelson. “Sometimes when we talk about these practices or meditation, it actually increases tension because it’s new and strange. Counting as you breathe is not – anyone can do it.”

Nelson says counting and breathing makes an impact. Try to inhale deeply while counting to 6, in a non-rushed fashion. Try to make your mind as empty as a whiteboard with no writing. Once you reach 6, pause.

“We aim to take a slow inhale while counting from 1 to 6, and then a full, slow exhale, counting from 8 backwards to 1. If you do it a few times, you will feel better and de-clutter your mind,” said Nelson. “It’s all about slowing our busy, busy brains down a little, and if you slow yourself and think about those deep breaths, even for just one minute, you will be doing yourself a favor.”

Nelson said that breathing can be the first step in efforts to de-clutter your mind, and that adding a bit of movement – rolling the shoulders and lower back during the breath – as well as standing and bouncing on the balls of your feet, with or without the deep breathing – is another step in the right direction towards re-energizing and feeling better.

“Sometimes I’ll just go outside and breathe, because that helps me put focus on it, and it’s something you can do before you get back to work or head to another meeting,” she said. “You can also work some visualization into it. Imagine you’re on your favorite beach or whatever place you ‘want to be’ while you breathe. It can reduce tension.”

Over-thinking the idea of relaxing is really common, Nelson said. It happens to everyone, so use the full power of your lungs to reduce that stress and tension, count as you inhale and exhale and you, too, could be on the road to reducing some of that toxic thinking as you get a bit more relaxed.

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