Tag Archives: Asthma management

Something snaps and anxiety appears


I’ve noticed that I’m drawn to people with anxiety, perhaps that is because I’ve been there, I may be still there, I now feel so much better and thats because I’ve found my here and now. Anxious thoughts can’t get me if I’m conscoiusly present, being in the here and now.

I’ve discovered that there is trying to be in the here and now and being in the here and now. They are totally different, one works for a time and is tiring, the other effortless and  continuously works.

Trying is tiring and being is effortless.

I’ve done loads of trying, it is hard work and develops muscular pain. Being is some much better.

Trying is desperately seeking the end goal at the detriment of the journey to get there.

Being is enjoying journey and noticing how the journey changes to get to your goal, sometimes the goal posts change as you discover what you are looking for wasn’t really for you.

When you finally notice that yo have anxiety, there may be years of not noticing, life was just getting more and more awkward, then something snaps and anxiety appears.

When the snap happened for me I immediately wanted to try and get rid of it, I tried and tried which compounded the anxiety, It wasn’t until very recently that I could be free of anxiety by trying to be in the here and now, it worked for a few hours then I tired and anxiety created back. I’d recommend trying to be in the here and now if only for a respite and the knowledge that you can control your anxiety. This could be a stepping stone to being free of anxiety. This takes practice and more practice, practice of noticing muscular tension and releasing the tension, when you start you will notice large areas of muscular tension and with practice you’ll notice the slight tightening of a muscle.

The muscular activity I’m referring to, is a tightening when something uncomfortable triggers anxiety. Noticing your reactions to a stimulus, and having techniques in improving your presence will mitigate your anxiety.

It has worked for me so why not you.

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Oh, that empty feeling


Oh, I have that empty feeling, I’ve just completed a year long course about building a community around my passion. It’s my passion as it has helped my manage anxiety, asthma, depression; I didn’t even know I had depression and anxiety, I thought feeling worried and scared of my own image was normal. If you feel that way, this feeling is not normal and what I learnt should help you as well.

I discovered a way to get myself centred, thats in all dimensions, whatever these dimensions are. I discovered a way to improve my psychophysical wellbeing, a way to be happy when I’m happy and to be sad when I’m sad, a way to remove the multiple layers of self doubt, envy, trying and what ever to discover my authentic self.

The course I’ve just finished was about broadcasting about my discoveries and inviting other to experience what I’ve discovered. Now the course has finished I’m on my own for a moment whilst I discover my own path. This moment reminds me of when I passed my HGV driving test. I drove around Edinburgh with the examiner, I was driving an articulated lorry.

Success, I passed first time.

The examiner finally said “well done, you can now drive it back to Rosyth on your own.”

Oh, that empty feeling,

25 miles through Edinburgh across the Forth Road Bridge and on to Rosyth. AND on my own. I survived without a collision, I felt empowered when I got out of the cab, I was elated, I was trusted, I was one of the gang, I was special.

I suppose I’m still driving back from my examination, why not sign up to my mailing list and you will find out more about my passion.

Thank you Jeremy and Peter.

 

 

I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing


Now you understand where your sit bones are and also where your head neck joint is, if you  don’t then please read Your boney hollow and Acetabulum is one of those words I just love then you will discover where they are in your body and also what an acetabulum is.

What are your views and beliefs on how breathing happens and how does breathing happen within yourself.

Once I had some really skewed beliefs how I had to breathe, I thought I had to consciously breath when I did any strenuous activity and also I didn’t trust my breathing to happen on its own.

Unfortunately we can learn to control our breathing, this is necessary if you want to hold your breathe when hiding from someone and something or swimming under water. When stress and anxiety becomes a way of life, being conscious of your breathing becomes second nature.

Thoughts of:

  • He going to be angry with me – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • Thats a steep hill to walk up – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I don’t want to face up to something – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go shopping – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go to work – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing

The list is endless and you may have other reasons to hold your own breath. This breath holding is the initiation of conscious breathing.

Conscious breathing with anxiety is not a very successful partnership. The anxiety sets your breathing to a quiet mode with minimal diaphragm and rib movement Breathing takes place just at the top of your lungs, you may notice short shallow breathing with some movement of the scapula, the scapula moving forward so the glenohumeral joint rolling forward in space into a shrug.

Conscious breathing with the smallest use of your lungs is not adequate in fact it’s hopeless but that is what may people with anxiety do.

I know I was one of them.

I changed my breathing with help from others and I learnt how my breathing happens and the anatomy involved in breathing. I found the anatomy so important for me as it dismissed the beliefs I had in how I breathed.

Did you know your ribs move up and down hinging about your vertebra and sternum as you breath, this was a shock to me. I thought my ribs were just there to contain my lungs and heart, they didn’t move. Discovering my ribs moved down on an out breathe and up on in breathe was hard discovery to make, first because my ribs moved and secondly the direction of movement was illogical to me and sometimes still is.

The curve of the ribs with their movement changes the volume of air in the lungs. The ribs go down the air is displaced out of the lung, when the ribs go up the volume increases causing a vacuum in the lungs, air is drawn in to the lungs to equalise the vacuum with atmosphere.

There are many muscles that are involved in breathing, if you want to know more then it time for your own research. I might do a later blog about them if you want to wait.

The important thing to know about breathing is that you can just let it happen, when you start interfering with it, you will mess it up. Knowing the physiology and anatomy gave the confidence to leave my breathing alone. I still have certain triggers that bring on an asthma event, instead of jumping to my old trusty inhaler, I use the knowledge of how my breathing happens, notice any rising anxiety, and consciously control the rising anxiety and allow my urge to control my breathing to diminish.

These skills didn’t happen over night, it was may months, in fact a couple of years, so don’t put your inhaler in the bin and do it my way, things my turn nasty for you. Gently, gently is the key.

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When thinking goes awry


Sometimes I don’t want to walk my dogs, lots of excuses, non of them are valid but in the moment they are really true – honest. It’s that moment of getting up and doing something to meet the expectation of others or my dogs that I find difficult to achieve.

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think.

So what can be done, instead of trying to satisfy someone else’s expectations, I go for a walk  for myself and the dogs can come as well. It’s their choice to come along if they want. My dogs never say no so now I have a win – win situation. I’m going for a walk under my rules.

Some where to go, I’m quite fortunate as I can walk out from my house, up a very step hill into the Forest of Dean. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood the hill outside is just too steep so I have other options, dogs in the car and off to somewhere else. My favourite walk, my sanctuary is Soudley Ponds, my dogs love being there as you may have guessed there’s water, my dogs love water, I prefer dogs and water to dogs and mud.

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There’s a good path around the ponds and parking at both ends. At Soudley Ponds I have two walks, the easy one around the ponds, the walk is just under 2 miles so it is a nice distance to reflect and reset my thinking for the day. I return home motivated and eager to get on with the day.

If I want a challenging walk there’s a step hill up to Blaize Bailey  (a link to google maps) there’s a view point which looks over the River Severn, it’s just a beautiful view. Perhaps a blog about the Blaize Bailey walk later.

I use my walks to reset myself, consider if all those urgent things are really urgent, perhaps decide to tackle a few of those things I love to procrastinate about. I always find them so simple once I get started and a great relief once they are completed.

Have you ever wondered how we do things, a thought and it happens. Keeping it very simple, we think and something happens, for example, at the moment I’m having thoughts about what to write, I translate these non verbal thoughts into verbal thoughts, formulate a sentence then change these verbalised thoughts into muscular activity so my fingers can move around my keyboard to produce these words. We do this all the time and it’s amazing how with just a thought things happen.

Sometimes this simple thinking can get awry, a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared to walk a few hundred yards without my trusty inhaler, yes I suffered from asthma, or as I like to think nowadays my thinking had gone awry. I was stuck in the freeze mode of the fear reflex. The fear relex is wonderful for freezing when hiding when being chased or being quiet ready to pounce on prey but not if it’s held for weeks, months and years.

I did years, several miserable years, years I can’t remember.

I just survived.

In the freeze mode I found that I breathed in but not out, there was some breathing else I won’t be here to tell you.

My breathing function reduced to just using the upper part of my lungs, my inhaler helped when things got tough.

I thought my life was set as it was.

However I discovered that my thinking was awry and that I could change my thinking, I needed help to guide me though and time to realise it was possible. So if your breathing is effected by stress, depression, anxiety then from my experience there is help and it’s within you, you may be like me and need help to find it in yourself and you may be able to find away yourself.

There’s many aspects to understand about your breathing, I found that understanding where my lungs and diaphragm are helped me, it may help you. Also understanding how breathing is semi-automatic; we can control breathing or just let it happen without conscious control. It is this ability to consciously control breathing when fear triggers the fight and flight response.

If you get stuck then your thinking goes awry.

So how to prevent, notice, do something to prevent this thinking, you’ll have to wait or read more in my mailing list; if you live in the Forest we could meet up and enjoy my sanctuary, Soudley Ponds?

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think. Again this is thinking gone awry.

Simply change the volume in your chest cavity


This is a series about breathing, the first part is Troublesome Breathers

Try this out, but first please read Troublesome Breathers.

Intertwine your fingers of your hands, knuckles pointing up. Now imaging your knuckles are your diaphragm and your arms are your ribs.

I’m going to ask you to move your hands up and down, if you can keep your shoulders quiet so they don’t move too much.

Hopefully you are sat down, if not please sit down.

Now lift your hands up, if your shoulders are still your elbows should come close to your body. Do this activity a few times and notice what your elbows are doing.

Hopefully you have done this a few times and may be discovered something, if you want add a comment of what you have noticed.

Now for more imagination; your fist is your diaphragm, your arms are your ribs and your shoulders are the joint where your ribs attach to your spine. Hopefully that makes sense.

Now raise your fist, what happens to your arms? For me my arms rotate about my shoulders and are drawn into the side of my chest.

Now lower your fist, what happens to your arms? For me my arms rotate about my shoulders and my arms move away from the side of my chest.

This is what happens to your ribs when your diaphragm rises and lowers.

Air is exhausted from your lungs by two major activities, your diaphragm rising and your ribs rotating downward that reduces the volume of your chest cavity.

Air is inhaled in to your lungs by two major activities, your diaphragm descending and your ribs rating upward that increase the volume of your chest cavity.

Now for a warning – please be seated the first time you experiment with this activity and stop if you get dizzy.

Revisit the activity of moving your fist up and down in front of your chest, notice your arms moving in and out to the side. Do it a few times.

Move your fist to the lowest point in the activity above, now this time imagine your fist your diaphragm. Breath out, as you are breathing out raise your fist, stop when you want to, don’t do any forcing. Now on your in breath allow your fist to lower as your diaphagm descends.

Repeat a few times.

Stop if you feel light headed or dizzy.

Repeat again but this time synchronise your diaphragm with your fist and your ribs with your arms. As your diaphragm rises your fist rises and your ribs descend as do your arms, reducing the volume in your chest cavity.

As your diaphragm descends with your fist your ribs rotate up and away as do your arms, increasing the volume in your chest cavity.

That is how we breathe, we simply change the volume in the chest cavity, on the in breath a partial vacuum is created as the chest cavity volume is increased, air is drawn in to balance the chest pressure with atmospheric pressure. On the out breath the air in the chest cavity is displaced as the diaphragm and ribs reduce the chest cavity volume.

You may have notice a change in your breathing, when I practice this I have a change in the quality a my breath, it’s hard to describe apart from it feels cleaner and I feel more buoyant.

Here’s another warning, take care, wait a moment, you may feel light headed so remain seated until you feel safe to move.

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Troublesome Breathers


When I started writing these blogs I didn’t know where they would lead, I now seem to have a direction, my earlier blog Thinking this is what freedom feels like explains where I was stuck, I’ve been writing about thinking over and over again and couldn’t work out what was wrong, what was wrong was that I was thinking to much.

For weeks I’ve been wanting to write about how I overcame my breathing issue but could never find the words. I seem to have found them.

Breathing is a natural act that we all do, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t breathe. The issue with breathing especially with troublesome breathers like myself is that we can take control of our breathing, generally in a poor way. We have beliefs that aren’t true and disable us from breathing naturally.

Some questions

Where is your diaphragm?

What does your diaphragm do?

Do your ribs assist in your breathing?

Where is the top of your lungs?

Where is the bottom of your lungs?

What is in your chest cavity?

How far in your back are your lungs?

These are important questions for the troublesome breather to understand. We humans can have differing thoughts where our body parts really are. These beliefs have been developed over time by listening to others and just having a good guess. These beliefs will also trip you up and reduce your capacity to perform activities. If is important to know where your body is and this include the lungs, diaphragm and your other internal organs. If you don’t know you are just guessing.

What I need you to do now is to answer the questions above honestly, no cheating. If you answer to the best of your ability and it’s wrong, that is great as you now have the opportunity to learn. If you doubt my answers, please research and let me know if I’m incorrect.

I’m going to join you in answering the questions above with what I believe is correct, I’m not going to cheat and research the answers.

The diaphragm is attached to the lower ribs and the spine near the lower ribs.

The diaphragm aids breathing by moving up and down, up on the out breathe and down on the in breathe.

The ribs hinge from the facet joints of the vertebra and the cartilage of the sternum. The ribs move up and down, as the diaphragm goes down on the in breathe the ribs hinge upwards increasing the space in the chest cavity, giving more space the lungs to use.

The chest cavity contains the two lungs and heart, the diaphragm seals the bottom of the chest cavity.

Your lungs fill the chest cavity except for the space for your heart. The top of your lungs is just below your collarbone, the bottom near the lower ribs. What I find amazing is that your lungs are behind your spine. Have a look at a cross section on the internet.

How did you manage with your answers, were they the similar to mine, if in doubt please check. The important thing is to know what is true.

Don’t do anything about these discoveries, just think and sleep on it. I’ll continue on the next blog  Simply change the volume in your chest cavity.

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The first 5 steps to managing asthma


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I probably do but manage it without medication, so do I really do have asthma?

I don’t really know but I do know that when I get stresses or anxious I notice my chest tightening and I have a shortness of breathe.

Is that asthma, is that like your asthma?  My doctor seems to think so!

I never thought of having asthma, I really didn’t want it; are you like that?

If you’re interested this is what I’ve learnt about managing asthma, this took me a few years, it’s a slow process with many hour practice, keep taking the inhalers.

1. Stop and notice when your asthma rises

Just let it happen as it normally does and take you medication as you normally do, but notice what your thoughts were when you notice your asthma rising.

  • Was something bothering you?
  • Were you about to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Was something getting awkward?

For the first few times this is probably enough. Remember not to rush, noticing is important, perhaps write a diary of what you were feeling, you may be able to notice a pattern.

2. Do something different

Hopefully you have noticed a pattern; something has bothered you, you have reacted which resulted in your asthma rising. Perhaps you could react differently, not getting vexed or angry, what about having the opposite reaction or just notice you’re being bothered and not reacting, staying neutral. Maybe its worth an experiment to see what happens, remember your inhaler is always available so use it when you need it.

As with step 1, this will take time and you will get it wrong, remember getting thing wrong is a learning experience that you can learn from.

Remember this takes time so don’t rush or put yourself in danger.

3. What are you thinking

Where are you when your asthma rises? This is a time question.

Was it just the thought of doing something stressful. Perhaps you notice that you were thinking into the future, instead could you think about now instead. The future may be less stressful if you think about what is happening now.

This does take practice, notice your surroundings, become interested in something you can  see, hear, smell or touch, just enjoy being here now. Did you notice a change in your asthma rising. Don’t rush anything, and be safe.

4. Let the ground support you

I noticed with my asthma attacks I don’t really know where I was, sort of floating around in a panic and not feeling to well. Perhaps ask yourself if the ground is supporting you, it could be a chair or bed, the thought is that I can feel my weight being supported from the ground, feel nice and heavy.

5. Let my head be light on top of my spine

Now that you can feel your weight being support by the ground perhaps you could have the opposite thought that my head is free to move on top of my neck. This will activate your postural reflex, you may notice a lightness in yourself and your breathing may become a little easier. Remember this all times time and you need to keep working thought the steps starting at 1.

Only practice these steps when it is save to do so and always use your medicine as prescribed.

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Don’t try this at home


What a lovely Sunday morning, I like Sunday mornings; the doors and windows are open letting the cool fresh morning air into the house, a nice breakfast, tea maybe coffee later, it is quiet, I have room to reflect and think. I want to, have the need to, write but I haven’t a clue what to write, will it be about Jessica Wolf’s workshop at BAS, or further thoughts about how I feel about not being ready to qualify as an Alexander Technique teacher. The later I’m content with, so maybe this is could be about breathing, in fact about just a few moments during the workshop.

As you may be aware, I manage asthma with thought alone by using the Alexander Technique, no more inhalers for me I haven’t used one for a couple of years. This nearly changed on Friday. We were working though the various activities that Jessica was directing, silent ‘la’s’, whispered ‘ah’s’ and counting on our out breath, I’m not going to go in to detail here about these activities as I won’t give them justice. Jessica suggested that for a moment we imagine what poor breathing is like and perhaps attempt some poor breathing. I CAN DO THAT! I just thought of how I used to breathe and a little more poor use on top. It was a bad move, my chest tightened I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t count passed ONE , worst of all it was real and I was stuck with panic, fear and thoughts of how the hell can I get out of this breathing pattern. I didn’t have a clue what to do, I was really stuck in my thinking, old thoughts of trying to do something, just do anything so that I can breathe again. The panic was awful.

I don’t know how long it took, in reality probably a few moments. Luckily we were working in pairs, Jane had her hand on my chest and abdomen to notice my breathing during the various activities. I grabbed her hand, she stayed with me, my breathing returned to something like normal and I cried for a long time, tears are with me as I write. I’m not sure about the tears, are they about sorrow and loss of how I was for so many years, was it the panic I used to feel in just doing simple tasks, was it planning my life around an inhaler, ‘ooh thats’s going to be stressful so time for my inhaler’ My life was so reliant on inhalers, I feel depressed just thinking about is and it’s hard to see the screen with my tears.

Those moments of thought about my old bad use has taken me two days and a little more to get over. This has been a real lesson on the power of thought and how old habits can just reappear, it is also a really good lesson again on the power of thought, that’s conscious constructive control of thought, using indirect methods to help myself to breathe freely again.

The conscious constructive control I’ve learnt over the past few years during my Alexander Technique Lessons and my teacher training so I have the skill to return to breathing freely again. Don’t try this at home else you may be in trouble.

 

Being ill brings back all the demons


There’s been a nasty cold going around the UK over the past few weeks I met up with it three weeks ago and still doesn’t want to leave me. When I went to the doctors last week, I got the news that this cold normally lasts around six weeks; so I’m only half way through.

Ugh.

I’ve been managing asthma quite happily for a few years using techniques I’ve learnt as a pupil and latterly as an Alexander Technique student teacher.

Then the cold struck and down I went and asthma rose, I reverted to what I used to like and I didn’t even notice! The asthma inhaler came out, feeling sorry for myself and couldn’t work out what to do. All I could do was to sit still.

For the first few days not a thought of semi-supine or a Whispered Ah; just feeling sorry for myself! Then the thoughts slowly filtered through; ah time for the Whispered Ah whilst lying down.

I got on the floor.

What a relief.

I quietened down and my breathing improved from very shallow breaths to lungs full of air, bliss.

I was shocked with myself how easy it was to revert to old habits when I got the cold, its got me wondering what other habits that I take for granted that are not so beneficial to me, I could do something else. It’s got me exploring, this morning on my Sunday morning swim I noticed that a gasp in air just before i put my  head under water to start swimming,  do I need this gasp, it’s not as if I’m racing, I swim just for fun, so why gasp?  It turns out that I don’t need to. Gasping is a pulling down so I’m starting my first stroke from a bad place. If I think forward and up with little care about my breath I seem to swim freer and I can always take a breath later on.

So my demons have helped me, why do I hold me breath when running?

I don’t run far!

Something else to explore and experiment with.

There’s more than just the Whispered Ah for asthma control


In the last blogs I’ve eulogised the Whispered Ah but this only a small part of what has helped me to get my asthma under control.

The Whispered Ah is functional and doing activity or it can be, when first experimenting and have little experience of the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is about inhibition, non-doing  and direction, so initially the Whispered Ah doesn’t seem to fit with non-doing. It may have been devised as a deflective alternative activity to break a habit of poor breathing, I’m being deliberately vague of what poor breathing is.

Perhaps FM Alexander took the Whispered Ah from whom ever invented the activity and applied the Alexander Principles.

I recon from my experience asthma sufferers just push on with what they are doing as whatever the cost, in Alexander terms  they end-gain, I needed to stop doing this by non-doing, putting myself in neutral, when in neutral strange things start to happen, maybe sounds become clearer, you hear a clock ticking for the first time, vision softens and becomes clearer, you sense the clothes touching your body, someone else’s body heat, in short, you notice what your senses have been reporting all along but you’ve need to busy to notice.

From this neutral place inhibition is available ‘Conscious and ongoing prevention of habitual interference with optimum poise’; there’s a lot of detail in this quote which will have to wait for another day.

Whilst inhibiting plan your next move, perhaps initiate a Whispered Ah but this don’t just do the Ah, have a thought of the Whispered Ah, keep the thought in your head and don’t visit the parts you thought of i.e your diaphragm, rib, tongue etc. Once you have established your thought let is go and allow the Whispered Ah to happen. I find the quality quite different from the doing Whispered Ah.

Give it a go.