If you have been able to get away from your abuser and receive some help, you most likely have become acquainted with this concept of intentional breathing. Oh, how I wish I knew about this when I was in the midst of the gaslighting and moments when I could not understand why he hated me so much. I distinctly remember that although my body was standing perfectly still and my eyes were staring straight ahead in shock, my body felt like someone was moving towards me in hostility and I was cowering backwards into a corner. I couldn't think straight (otherwise known as the fog of confusion) and I certainly was not breathing.

When the human body is under duress, stress hormones are released. Hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol gush into our system causing the well known fight/flight response (or freeze!). As a result our breathing will do one of two things: It will either become hard and quick or it will become quick and shallow. Neither of these is optimal, unless of course, you are in physical danger and need your body to guide your next steps. But for most of us who are dealing with emotional/verbal abuse, it just causes undo wear and tear on our bodies.

So what's the immediate answer? What's the answer we need in the moment of confrontation? Deep, intentional breathing! It's actually quite easy and yet the effects on the body are sooo beneficial. There's a lot out there about different breathing techniques to relieve stress but my 2 favorites are the following:

  1. Quick relief by 1 deep breath through the nose, feeling the air enter the body and imagine it penetrating throughout your entire system, filling your tummy.

  2. 4-4-4 Breathing: Breathe in through nose for 4 seconds, hold your inhale for 4 seconds, then exhale through your mouth, for a count of 4 seconds. Repeat until you feel your body is relaxed and your mind is clear.

Although I am no longer feeling like I'm being pushed into a corner, I do find myself feeling stressed from time to time, during my normal day. Sometimes I even feel the shallow breathing and my shoulders tightening when I lie down to sleep. So I regularly use the quick technique to give my body what it needs: air! I immediately feel relaxed.

How I wish I had known this little secret when I was experiencing the daily pressure of feeling like I constantly failed my partner. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to those of us who know this works, but forget to use it. Or for those who are still in the entanglements of the fog, my wish for you is that this simple exercise will calm your soul. Then hopefully, you will feel like you can think, will speak truth, and be able to place those boundaries that normally seem so difficult to enforce.

Blessings to you!

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