“Calm down… Breathe… There you go… Better now?”
How many times have you said something like that to someone in emotional distress? How many times has someone said it to you when you’re panicked?
It turns out that the calming power of deep breathing is real and backed by science. You can purposefully calm your stress and refocus your mind through breathwork. You can learn and use a few simple techniques every day – without waiting for the next panic attack.
Here’s why deep breathing works so well.
When we’re stressed, our bodies react with shallow, upper-chest breathing. We can reduce the stress response by deliberately breathing from our diaphragm. Abdominal breathing helps calm our nervous system and encourages our bodies to relax.
Try these exercises during a stress-free period a few times to get the hang of it first.
- Breathe deeply, all the way into your belly – in and out through the nose. Put a hand on your tummy and the other on your chest so you can be sure your belly is moving out more. Do this for three to five more full, deep breaths.
- Imagine the air around you is full of peace and quiet. Breathe in and visualize that sense of ease entering your body – and when you exhale, imagine stress exiting your body. You can even add in an inhale statement (like “I breathe peace and calm in”) and an exhale statement (like “I release stress and tension out.”) Do it for a few minutes. Go a little longer each time.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. Lie on the floor for this one. As you inhale, tense a muscle group; then release it as you exhale. Start with the feet and work your way up.
- Box breathing, or 4 x 4 x 4, clears away the “flight or fight” response at any time. Close your eyes and inhale for a count of four; hold for a count of four; exhale for a count of 4. Do this a few times until calm returns.
Pick one of these and try it now.
No crisis required. ☺