Breathing Techniques for Calm
Why Breathing Matters
When faced with stressors, our body often responds with the “fight or flight” reflex, accelerating our breathing and heart rate. Deliberate breathing techniques can counteract this reflex, signaling the body to return to a state of calm.
Engages the Parasympathetic Nervous System: This system is responsible for the body’s rest-and-digest function. Activating it through deliberate breathing slows the heart rate and relaxes the muscles.
Oxygenates the Brain: Slow, deep breaths can increase oxygen supply to the brain, promoting clearer thinking and better decision-making.
Breathing Techniques to Try
Diaphragmatic Breathing (or Belly Breathing)
How to do it: Sit or lie down comfortably. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to move up into your ribs. Ensure your stomach expands (and not your chest). Exhale slowly through pursed lips.
Benefits: Engages the diaphragm, slows your breathing rate, and decreases oxygen demand, which can reduce feelings of breathlessness and calm the nerves.
Box Breathing (or Square Breathing)
How to do it: Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath for 4 counts. Exhale for 4 counts. Pause and hold for another 4 counts. Repeat.
Benefits: This technique can increase alertness and performance, alleviate stress, and regulate the body’s automatic responses to stress.
How to do it: Sit in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and inhale quietly through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds. Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of 8 seconds. Repeat the cycle three more times.
Benefits: It acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Over time, with repeated use, its calming effects become more profound.
Guided Visualization with Breathing
How to do it: As you breathe deeply, imagine a serene place (like a beach or forest). Visualize yourself in that place, experiencing all the sights, sounds, and feelings associated with it.
Benefits: Combining visualization with deep breathing can enhance the relaxation effects and provide a mental escape from stressors.
Integrating Breathing Techniques
- Daily Practice: Spend a few minutes each day—perhaps in the morning or before bed—practicing these techniques to make them second nature.
- In Moments of Stress: The next time you’re faced with a situation that spikes your anxiety, employ one of these techniques to ground and center yourself.
- Pair with Other Relaxation Methods: Combine your breathing exercises with meditation or gentle movement, like stretching or yoga, for a holistic relaxation routine.
Remember, it’s the simplicity of these techniques that makes them so powerful. By taking control of your breath, you’re also reclaiming control over your emotions, providing a much-needed sanctuary of calm amidst the chaos of anxiety.