Psych’s Tips on Hiking with Awareness: 12 Breaths to Steady the Storm

Planning on attending one of Mates4Mates many Rehabilitative Adventure Challenges or Activities such as Kokoda, Aussie 10, Dawson River Retreat or simply wanting to find better ways to manage stress and anxiety in your life? Then the below information may be right up your alley to get you on track (excuse the pun) and get control back in your life.

When we are controlled by the ‘just get the job done’ rule (necessary for Military life but very damaging for our life outside the Military) this creates anxiety and stress. This is the purpose of such a rule, to motivate our resources despite conflicting demands. However, this also causes rapid and shallow breathing which activates the fight / flight part of the brain resulting in increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and muscle tension. Hardly a state from which we can enjoy a beautiful hike in the bush! So how do we steady this emotional storm? Yep you guessed it, by BREATHING! So when you are on your weekend hikes and you are feeling like your thoughts are switching on your ‘just get the job done’ rule and the resultant body stress, just stop (yep, remember it’s ok to stop).

One breathing technique to try is outlined below.

  • First take 12 slow, deep breaths.
  • Then, take 3 breaths and focus on your breathing. Place a hand on your belly and notice your belly rise first, followed by the expansion of your chest.
  • For the following 3 breaths, notice your breathing and notice what thoughts are running through your mind (whatever they are just let them be).
  • Next, take 3 breaths, notice your breathing and also scan your body from head to toe and notice what you feel (whatever you feel, just make room for it).
  • Finally, take 3 breaths and in addition to connecting with your breathing, connect with your environment. Notice what you can see, hear, taste, touchandsmellas well as staying aware of your breathing.

This simple technique will give you a rapid way to increase self-awareness, accept what you are feeling and thinking and to gather your senses so you are not on ‘autopilot’. Practice this throughout the day, wherever you find yourself getting stressed e.g. at traffic lights, in your office or when you wake up. Try longer and shorter versions to fit your circumstances (e.g. when you are getting anxious in a shopping centre or grocery line) to reset your thinking and gain control of your mind and to enjoy hiking with awareness.

A great book to read on developing mindfulness (a technique for living fully in the present moment), is ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Dr Russ Harris (ranges from approx. $14-$25.00 depending on where you get it from – but worth every cent!).

So if this sounds like something that you would like to work on to prepare for an Adventure Challenge or just to learn some more effective ways to manage stress and anxiety in your life, please contact your local Mates4Mates Family Recovery Centre to make an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists.