Do you know how to breathe?
One of our most basic tools for managing our emotions and reactions is our breathe. Unfortunately, many people don't breathe in a way that calms them and instead engage in anxious breathing that just escalates overwhelming emotions.
In our Transformation series, I want to offer you new tools to use to help you manage your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. As you journey forward, these tools will help you stay calm, grounded, and conscious of the present moment.
When you breathe, do you feel it in your belly or in your upper lungs? Anxious breathing is in the upper lungs. We are aiming for deep belly breathes that help us bring down our overwhelming emotions and ground us.
Ready to learn how to breathe, even though it is something you do every moment of every day?!
Put your hand on your belly. Imagine there is a balloon in your belly and on the inhale you are inflating the balloon. Breathe in through your nose, inhale all the way down into your belly and inflate the balloon. Try not to get caught in upper lung breathing. When we get anxious, we usually get caught in short, shallow breathes in our upper lungs. This is not calming; it’s anxiety-increasing, the opposite of what we are working towards. Ideally, your upper chest is not moving at this point. Just the balloon in your belly. You will feel your hand move outward as you inflate the balloon.
On the exhale, deflate the balloon and exhale through your mouth. You can push your hand in and towards your back, to prompt you to stay focused on just exhaling the air in your belly. There is counting that you can be doing along with this, but sometimes that gets cumbersome and confusing as you are starting out. It’s enough for now to just focus on inhaling through your nose and inflating the balloon in your belly and then exhaling through your mouth and deflating the balloon.
This is a great skill to practice proactively, so you build up your arsenal to use it reactively. Proactively means you are doing the breathing when you are calm and feeling in control. Reactively means you are doing the breathing in response to feelings of being anxious and overwhelmed. Practice breathing, consciously, in the morning and evening, on the drive to work, when you are walking down the street, as you are waiting in line to pick up the kids. This is proactive. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to use it when you are less conscious and more in a place of fear. Practice, practice, practice!