When we become anxious and stressed our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Often we are so caught up with our negative thoughts about the situation (“he always does this”, “I’m so stupid”, “he’s so annoying”) that we are not aware of rapid breathing until we start to feel the effects on a physiological level. We may experience confused thoughts, a tightness in the chest, anxiety, fluttering in the stomach, pins and needles in the hands and panic. For some this can manifest in the feeling of wanting to run away or the feeling of anger. In these situations it is important to start breathing through your nose only, this will slow your breathing down (it’s very difficult to breath rapidly through your nose for prolonged length of time). If you do this exercise, physiological sensations, confusion and panic will subside very quickly.
If you are in a situation where you find that you are becoming angry, or experiencing excessive anxiety and want to deal with a situation calmly, take a moment to breathe deeply, and quickly assess the situation before acting impulsively. Breathe in deeply through your nose and imagine you are breathing in relaxation and breathing out any unnecessary anxiety or anger. On each out breath say to yourself mentally and silently ‘calm’ (or any positive word you feel appropriate). If the situation allows, close your eyes whilst you do this and use the power of your imagination to help you relax (imagine what colour relaxation would look like to you). Once you feel your heart rate slowing and your mind calming you can then step into (or out of) the situation feeling calm and in control.
How to use this technique in everyday life…
You may find that practising this breathing technique for 5 minutes in the morning somewhere quiet and relaxing will help you feel more prepared for the rest of the day. For example you could do it each morning as a matter of routine, or maybe expand the process on days which you encounter high levels of anxiety.
- Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes.
- Become aware of your breathing, the gentle rise and fall of your chest, the coolness in your nostrils as you breathe in, the warmth of the air as you breathe out.
- Take three deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through either your nose or mouth which ever is most comfortable.
- On the in breath imagine you are breathing in relaxation (this may be represented by a colour, or coolness, or a soothing sound).
- On the out breath imagine you are breathing out any unnecessary stress or anxiety. Say to yourself silently and mentally the word calm (or any other word which relaxes you).
- After the three deep breaths continue to breathe normally focusing on your breath.
- When you feel calm and relaxed slowly open your eyes and stretch yourself…now you are fresh and relaxed ready to enjoy your day.
You can adapt this technique however works for you and use it in your everyday life. For example, focus on regulating your breathing when you are anxious, out for a beautiful walk, or even just sitting on the bus. It can be done anywhere with anyone and will become second nature after a while.