Anxiety and stress attack us at two different levels. Therefore, we need to consider those two levels when using relaxation techniques. We experience stress and anxiety on a mental/emotional level and also on a physical level.
This Deep Breathing Technique is effective because it addresses the effects of stress and anxiety at both levels. Not to mention, this relaxation technique does not require a change of clothes, fancy shoes or a gym membership!
Here’s how we breathe in this technique:
Start to inhale, slowly and deeply through your nose. Inhale so deeply, you feel like a balloon just before it would pop!
When you have inhaled fully through your nose, exhale slowly and fully through your mouth. Exhale so completely, you could not blow out a candle with what is left inside. Do not hold your breath at any time, keep your breath moving.
Taking five deep breaths in a row in this way will calm your body. In order to calm your mind we need to assign a cognitive task, something to focus on while you breathe.
Most people are able to use the task of counting backward from 100 while they inhale and exhale. You can choose another task if you like. I have taught this technique to almost all of my clients over the decades and have encouraged the use of many different tasks. Some like to recite poetry or song lyrics, some recite Psalm 23, others pray the rosary while deep breathing. Find something that works for you.
The task should be difficult enough that you have to think about it, but not so difficult that you get nervous about figuring out what comes next. If you choose to count, it does not matter how far you get while counting or whether or not you start over with each new breath.
For a moderate level of stress or anxiety, take five deep breaths at a time five times a day. For a more severe level, take seven deep breaths at a time seven times a day. Don’t wait to feel stressed to breathe deeply. The goal is to relax yourself overall. I might be helpful to set a timer to remind yourself to use this technique until you can remember it on your own.
It’s just breathing. You have to breathe no matter what. You cannot do it too much. You might as well breathe in a way that is beneficial! I am confident it will help you relax!
Louella DeVries, LCPC
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