One simple way to relax is to concentrate on your breathing. When we are feeling worried or panicked, our breathing tends to be fast and shallow. Over-breathing like this can cause chest pains, tingling sensations and dizziness, which often leads to us worrying even more. One way to break this vicious cycle is to practice deep breathing exercises. Breathing deeply can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system which helps us to feel calm and relaxed. Breathing techniques also help us to be more aware of our bodies, and as we concentrate on our breathing we are less likely to be thinking about our worries.
I’d recommend giving them a go at any time, and pretty much anywhere! You don’t need to be feeling anxious or upset to use them. Just spending a few minutes every day focused on your breathing might be that little bit of time out you need. It is a good habit to get into. It would be a great thing to do in a morning or as a break at work. You could also use it to settle a group of children if things have gotten a little carried away!
Here are a few different exercises. Try them out and see what works for you. It might be that none of them suit you and that’s fine, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to wellbeing so if concentrating on your breathing really doesn’t work for you, you might want to check out our stress busters post that has some other tips on how to be calm and stress less.
- Take 5 breathing. This is such a simple breathing activity to learn so it can be great for children. You use your pinky finger from one hand to slowly trace around your other hand. As you go up a digit, you breath in through your nose, and as you go down a digit, you breathe out through your mouth. You can repeat this for a few minutes. I love this beautiful illustration of the method done by Rubi Garyfalakis. 2. Square breathing. You can do this one by finding a square to concentrate on in your surroundings (e.g. a window frame) or creating a rectangle with your hands. With your eyes starting at the bottom left corner of the shape, breathe in for four seconds as you look up the side of the shape, then hold for four seconds as you look along the top, breathe out for four seconds as you look down the right side of the shape, and hold for four seconds as you look along the bottom back to where you started. You can keep repeating this for a few minutes.
3. Origami breathing. This video shows different sized shapes expanding and contracting that you can breathe in time to. I like having something to really focus on and that keeps me in time, a I find it quite soothing. I chose this version with music as that works for me personally but you can always mute it for school or the office.
Give them a try and let me know your thoughts!