The calming effects of abdominal breathing are widely known. Here are a few tips to help achieve the same calming effect even if you haven’t yet had the chance to seek out or practice a breathing technique that suits you.
We’re anxious, even panicking at times. Have you noticed what actually happens in your body when you worry about the future or your frustration with a present situation runs havoc? Amongst other sensations that you might have noticed (pounding, rapid heartbeat, clammy palms, nausea, voice becoming higher pitched) your breathing gets faster and moves higher in the tightening chest.
If in this state it’s too tricky to remember taking a controlled, deep breath on the count of 4, then maybe just remember to extend your exhalation. That’s a fantastic start. It’s like slowing down in front of the traffic lights by gently pressing on the break pedal.
Longer exhalation activates the vagus nerve, that in turn switches on the parasympathetic ‘rest-and-digest’ response and starts lowering your heart-rate. That alone will result in you starting to recover from the awful feeling of panic.
4 Tips to help lengthen the exhalation phase of breathing
1. Add a low frequency sound to your out-breath as if saying “Aww” when seeing a cute puppy.If this sounds a bit silly, change the ‘acoustics’ to sound as Mama Bear “Hmmm”.
2. Bring your fingers in front of your mouth as if they were cold and breathe out a long, warming breath on them (as if warming them up in winter).
3. If speaking in public triggers your anxiety most then try adding an extra word into your phrases. Include one, later more, extra word before the next inhalation.
4. Instead of pushing away anxiety (research shows it only makes it worse), have it present and add courage to it. That positive intention alone will enable you to better self-regulate.For example: make a gesture (known as a Mudra gesture). Lift both palms to shoulder height facing forward. Inhale during this upward move: as if showing up your brave, open heart. To lengthen the out-breath bring your palms together in front of your chest gently pressing them together. Notice how they feel.
Note: intention matters more than execution. The intention of actually trying to help, calm and nurture yourself when you need it most is what, with practice, will make a positive difference.
Find out more about abdominal breathing techniques here.