As human beings, we all have moments when we feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Everyone experiences stress a little differently. For some of us, our thoughts will seem all over the place and we might not be able to think straight. Some people have some stomach distress or have muscle tightness. We usually all have some place in our body where we hold stress, such as our neck or back.
What can you do when you realize that you’re overwhelmed or stressed? One tool that can help us find calm is breathing exercises. This might sound overly simplistic. After all, we are constantly breathing are whole life, right? While this is true, we tend to not pay attention to our breathing most of time. (Our body is really smart this way. How annoying would it be if we had to concentrate on every breath? How would we have time for anything else?)
How we breath actually has a large impact on how we feel. You’ve probably seen someone hyperventilating before (at least on tv). Breathing shallowly and quickly brings air too quickly into the body too quickly, leaving us feeling light headed and adds to stress and confusion. This is why the old advice is to breath into a paper bag, as it forces us to slow down our breathing.
We can use breathing to help tell our body that we are okay. By doing some slow, controlled breathing, the body sends out signals of calm. Our thoughts slow down and clear. Our muscles relax.
Here are some instructions to start using breathing to find calm:
I encourage you to play around with exactly how long you hold the breaths on the inhale and exhale. If 4 seconds feels good, try 5 or 6. Follow what your body says feels right. Give this a try and you’ll find this simple exercise way more powerful than you’d expect.