By Kristyn | Mindful Mondays
The first time someone tried to teach me to deep breathe, I noped right out of there. It’s the cliche thing — inhale four, hold four, exhale four. It gave me a headache, and I found it useless. I breathe all the time, and you mean to tell me that the thing I do every day to live is supposed to remedy an anxiety attack or get me to sleep in a timely manner? Plus I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the counting, and trying to keep up frustrated me and distracted me from the task at hand.
But then I became a counselor, which meant I didn’t have the option of not liking the concept of deep breathing anymore. Right? Kind of. I still don’t like the term, and I don’t believe in it. What I do believe in, is called self-regulation.
What does deep breathing actually do? It slows down our heart rate. And what does that do? It halts the fight or flight reaction, otherwise known as adrenaline, which is the chemical process responsible for anxiety, especially anxiety attacks. When we’re revved up (maybe anxious, scared, at a roller coaster park, experiencing sexual attraction) we’re sitting in what’s called the sympathetic nervous system. When we’re chilled out (after Thanksgiving dinner, hanging out with friends, taking a walk) we’re sitting in a different system called the parasympathetic nervous system. Often, things feel uncontrollable to us. But this is the long way around saying that you can control what system you’re in, what chemicals your brain is producing, and how you’re feeling all just by taking a few deep breaths.
So what’s the best way to deep breathe?
- Breathe in through your nose like you’re smelling freshly baked bread or flowers.
- Breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing out birthday candles.
And that’s it! Some tips:
- Posture is a little bit important to make sure you have enough room for that air.
- Exhale all the air before inhaling new (or you might hyperventilate).
- Focus on the here and now.
- Go at your own pace.
If you have a chance, put on some calming music (I love lofi personally) and practice some deep breathing to these gifs: https://twitter.com/nathanwpyle/status/1139676955316559872?s=21&t=QPdeK6nWc-GgXASfzzlAww