Earlier this week when asked how she manages her anxiety, she shared a technique that I had never heard of: 4-7-8 breathing.
It’s stupidly simple – breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat.
I immediately made a note of the technique in my ‘Important Shit’ note on my phone, and promptly forgot about it. Until Tuesday night.
4-7-8 >> sleep
For some reason, I had a hard time falling asleep. I tried the usual suspects – a few dabs and deep breaths of Tata Harper’s Bedtime Treatment, slipping on my eye mask, counting up prime numbers starting at 101.
Nothing worked. Until I remembered Julia’s Snapchat.
After just a few 4-7-8 breaths, I was out. Turns out this exercise is excellent for lulling yourself to sleep.
4-7-8 >> work
4-7-8 came to the rescue the next day. It was just one of those Wednesdays, when I just couldn’t seem to focus.
I wrote out my day’s tasks in the Productivity Planner. And then got lost in a Vanity Fair reading binge.
I wasn’t feeling the playlist that I LOVED the day before. It took a solid 10 minutes before I found one that worked.
A change of scenery, from my desk to the couch, resulted in a 40 minute nap.
Rather than writing the entire day off, I tried a few 4-7-8 breaths. What did I have to lose?
Nothing, it turned out. I got focused, and knocked out most of the days tasks. 4-7-8 is as effective for getting focused as it is to get to sleep.
why 4-7-8 works
Warning – I’m about to nerd out.
TL;DR – oxygen is good for your brain and your body. Get more of it via 4-7-8 breathing (and exercise!), and reap the benefits of better sleep, heightened focus, and reduced anxiety. Basically, become a superhero.
When we’re feeling anxious, can’t fall asleep, or find it hard to focus, it’s usually because you have a mild oxygen deprivation.
That, or you drank too much coffee or wine. Been there, done that. Too many times.
Oxygen deprivation is most commonly caused by under-breathing – shallow, small breaths that fail to fully expel the carbon dioxide from your lungs and to inhale more oxygen.
Oxygen – kind of important.
We obviously need it to survive (oxygen is the final electron acceptor (i.e. step) to convert sugars and fats into energy, to make our bodies function properly).
When we don’t get enough oxygen, our bodies are powered at a lower rate.
When we saturate our bloodstream with oxygen via 4-7-8, we’re able to convert energy more easily.
Increased blood oxygen also triggers your brain to release GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), which is basically chocolate-wine-cozy blanket for your brain. GABA reduces excessive brain activity (basically, telling adjoining neurons not to ‘fire’).
Without enough GABA, your neurons fire early and often, which leaves you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and unable to focus.
To recap – oxygen is good for you. When you can’t sleep or focus or are feeling anxious, it means your body is running low. Perform 4-7-8 breathing a few times. Feel immediate results.
Thanks for introducing this amazing technique to me, Julia! And for being one of the best humans I know. <3 you.
More Friday Finds:
- the one thing that’s protected my phone from multiple falls.
- the t-shirt I wear every Sunday
- the video I watch to get my bum back in work mode
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