RELAXATION EXERCISES - Breathing
In these times of increased insecurities regarding our health, jobs, basic friendships and communication it is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed. There are no quick fixes, but hopefully, the following breathing exercise can help you relax a little bit and stop the train of thoughts going round and round in your head.
The rationale behind breathing exercises is simple: in situations of danger or shock, we tend to breath shallow and fast. The body needs to react quickly, the sympathetic nervous system is active, we are ‘on’. While great for a short time, if the stress trigger doesn’t disappear, the permanent state of being ‘on’ will exhaust your body.
You need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to relax, slow down your heart rate and switch into ‘off’ mode. You can see children do it instinctively after having a good cry or tantrum. When they are about to finish, they take a deep, shuddering breath and exhale loudly 😊. Now, usually your nervous system cannot be controlled consciously, but by doing the controlled breathing, you can trigger the needed calming response.
How to do it:
Preferably, lie down on a flat surface so you can feel how the breath travels through your body. Take a slow and long breath through your nose while mentally counting to six, tapering out your breath towards the end. Then keep still for maybe 2 seconds and then slowly breath out while counting to seven. Then pause again for maybe three seconds. Repeat. This should amount to about 4-5 breaths per minute.
1- you are not swimming under water, so no fast breath and holding it in, breathing in and out should resemble more a gentle wave-like movement. If you have inhaled all the air you need by reaching the count of three, you are breathing too fast.
2- The numbers are not set in stone! Start with shorter breaths; after a few inhalations you will realize that you can slow down a bit more (both the breathing and the time in between breaths)
3- Once you have a nice rhythm going, try and mentally follow your breath from your nose, through to your lungs and reaching your diaphragm (your tummy should lift a bit). Feel the reverse when slowly breathing out.
Stay healthy and safe!!