Let’s talk about breathing. When we are stressed, anxious, or upset the way we breathe changes. We tend to breathe short, shallow breaths. This can make anxious feelings even worse. The most basic way to ease stress and anxiety is to change the way we breathe. By doing this, we send a message to our nervous system that things are OK. In turn, the physical effects of anxiety (racing heart, sweaty palms, difficulty breathing) slow down and we are able to calm ourselves. You can alter your breathing anytime, anywhere. Here are a couple strategies:
- Place your hands on your abdomen and take slow full breaths into your hands, pushing out your hands while you inhale (this engages your diaphragm and allows you get the oxygen you need).To make this most effective, inhale for a full 4 seconds. Then, exhale for 4 seconds ridding your lungs of air. Try this a few times until it feels comfortable. The more you practice this, the more it will become natural.
- Box breathing- once you have diaphragmatic breathing down, we will take it to the next level with box breathing. In this exercise you will practice inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds…and back to inhale…4x4x4x4 (also called square breathing). Practice this with 4 repetitions and you will notice your body start to ease.