Feeling a little stressed from a year of busy-ness? Need a break before the family arrives for the holiday festivities? It might be time to take a moment, and just breathe!!
Your degree of body tension is affected by the way you breathe. When you are under stress, you breathe in a fast and shallow way. You can learn to calm yourself by practising controlled breathing exercises. Controlled breathing increases the oxygen flow to the brain, which increases your capacity to think and concentrate. The following exercises will be useful to you not only in dealing with triggers,but in other efforts and in any life circumstance in which you want or need to calm yourself. Two forms of controlled breathing exercises are offered here: abdominal breathing and calm breathing. Try to practice at least one of these techniques regularly. Five minutes a day for two weeks is a good start. Once you’ve become comfortable with the techniques, you can use them to combat stress, anxiety, and other stress symptoms.
Abdominal Breathing Exercise
Note the level of tension you are feeling. Then place one hand on your abdomen, right beneath your rib cage.
Inhale slowly through your nose into the “bottom” of your lungs - in other words, send the air as low down as you can. When you’re breathing from your abdomen, your hand should rise. Your chest should move only slightly while your abdomen expands. In abdominal breathing, the diaphragm - the muscle that separates the lung cavity from the abdominal cavity – moves downward, causing the muscles surrounding the abdominal cavity to push outward.
When you’ve taken a full breath, pause for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your nose or mouth. Be sure to exhale fully. As you exhale, allow your whole body to just let go. You might visualise your arms and legs going limp and loose like a rag doll.
Do ten slow, full, abdominal breaths. Try to keep your breathing smooth and regular, without gulping in a big breath or letting your breath out all at once. Remember to pause briefly at the end of each inhalation. Count to ten, progressing with each exhalation. The process should go like this:
Slow inhale.....Pause.....Slow exhale (count 1)
Slow inhale.....Pause.....Slow exhale (count 2)
Slow inhale.....Pause.....Slow exhale (count 3)
and so on up to 10.
Extend the exercise if you wish by doing two or three “sets” of abdominal breaths, remembering to count to ten for each set (each exhalation counts as one number). Five full minutes of abdominal breathing will have a pronounced effect in reducing anxiety or early symptoms of panic. Some people prefer to count backwards from 10 down to 1 on each breath. Feel free to do this if you prefer.
Calm Breathing Exercise
Breathing from your abdomen, inhale slowly to a count of 5 (count slowly “1...2...3...4...5” as you inhale).
Pause and hold your breath for a count of 5.
Exhale slowly, through your nose or mouth, to a count of 5 (or more if it takes you longer). Be sure to exhale fully.
When you’ve exhaled completely, take two breaths in your normal rhythm, then repeat steps 1 through 3 in the cycle above.
Keep up the exercise for at least 5 minutes. This should involve going through at least ten cycles of in-5, hold-5, out-5. Remember, to take two normal breaths between each cycle. If you start to feel light-headed while practising this exercise, stop for 30 seconds and then start again.
Throughout the exercise, keep your breathing smooth and regular, without gulping in breaths or breathing out suddenly.
Optional: Each time you exhale, you may wish to say “relax”, “calm”, “let go”, or any other relaxing word or phrase silently to yourself. Allow your whole body to let go as you do this.
I hope you're now feeling a little more relaxed and ready to enjoy the Christmas/New Year break.
Here's a great little podcast from the self-publishing formula team. And if you want to hear about what I learnt from their course and how my self-publishing career is going then got to minute 32 and have a listen.