Breath In, Breathe Out

By Ben Puchniak

Give yourself space to breathe, think, recycle and discard thoughts. Find the time and space once a day to recharge your mental landscape and de-clutter. So many of us go through the day without taking a minute to breathe and stop the process of overthinking. We let our thoughts and worries compound and eventually, they weigh us down. Having time and space to myself are the two most important constant aspects of my life. This means clearing a small amount of time in the day to be with yourself in a space that is comfortable for you. It could be in a park, in your bedroom, in the car or at a coffee shop; the goal is a stable mental state for a couple of minutes. This space to think can be considered meditation or reflection, but it doesn’t have to be. Find the time to sit and run over whatever is at the top of your consciousness–think about your worries–but don’t let them take over your train of thought. Think of them as problems or challenges to be solved, not as brick walls. Look at them with impassivity and detachment, as if these thoughts are someone else’s.  

When we experience an anxious or depressive state, it doesn't just affect our mentality: it impacts our physicality as well. We crunch up and move inward, suppressing our movements and energy output because of the mental blocks we set up. Eventually, if we maintain it, our body becomes used to the reduced energy output and it becomes even harder to slip out of these states. We stop breathing as deeply, our muscles stay contracted and don’t experience a full range of motion, and we give less of ourselves out into the world. It’s important to take a step back in times like these, and try to reflect outside of ourselves. We can often solve our problems by having a little one-on-one with ourselves, with character A playing the problem and character B finding the solution. Of course, this isn’t a replacement for talking things over with friends, family, or a therapist, but it’s just as important. Often I find that this is a good way to centre myself and calm my racing mind when it becomes troubled.  

Our lives are hypotheses, composed of many sequences of trial and error. We can experiment to our heart’s content, and part of this process is dealing with the repercussions. That shouldn’t deter us. It's just a matter of being confident in our unconfidence and being able to step back and analyze the process every once in a while. Try living life with different values, and different identities, in different countries and in different contexts. People often find one thing that works for them in their late teens and settle into that personality for the rest of their lives. What if there was something even better around the corner? You can always come back, but if you decide to stay you’ll forever be cursed by the “what-if?”

Instead of compressing ourselves into one form that we find the easiest or most comfortable to be in, it’s helpful to explore different ways of living to pin down which reality suits us. Being in an anxious state encourages this compression of personality and self-expression, and the first thing we can do in this situation is take a step back.

Sit down in a quiet place and breathe deeply through your nose for a minute or two. Focus on a favourite passage from a religious text or book if you want to, and create a mantra for yourself. When you steady your anxiety, you give yourself space to grow.

Inspired by the peace of the outdoors, Ben seeks stillness amongst the trees. He sees the little moments, those we take for granted, as opportunities to explore who we are. It all starts with a breath in, Ben says, just as each journey begins with one step. An avid traveller, Ben is now living in Italy, and sees travel as the method to expand his perspective and find solace in that he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

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