When the pressure’s building and you’re feeling stressed out, deep breathing helps release the tension and restore your inner calm.
No doubt, you will have heard of this technique before, but it’s great advantage is that it can be used anywhere. You can use it to restore your calm in anticipation of a demanding situation. You can use it in the middle of the situation when your emotions are running high. And you can use it afterwards if you’re still feeling jangly or your nerves are in threads.
The technique I’m referring to is deep breathing.
But before you dismiss it as the same old, same old, take two minutes to read this article.
What Happens When You’re Feeling Stressed Out?
When you’re under pressure and feeling anxious, you become so engrossed with the task at hand, the deadline or the fact that you’ve got too much to do, that you tend to take short, shallow breaths. We all do it without even realizing.
You may even become so focused on what you’re doing that you forget to breathe altogether, temporarily holding your breath and depriving your entire body of its vital supply of oxygen.
Fast, shallow breathing is great for dealing with emergencies when you need a burst of energy, but it’s not good if you maintain it on a continuous basis, because your mind and body are deprived of the oxygen they need to work calmly and efficiently.
Why Deep Breathing is Such an Effective Technique
In contrast, deep breathing is slower and more rhythmic, and brings about feelings of relaxation that lower your heart rate, reduce muscle tension and relieve anxiety.
It can help ease irritability and restore your calm. It can help reduce fatigue and boost your energy levels. And it can help you become more focused and improve your productivity.
The direct relationship between your depth of breathing and how you feel mentally, physically and emotionally is good news, because breathing is one of the few physiological functions that we have direct control over and can change quickly.
All that’s needed to benefit from this simple technique are three things:
- A commitment to use deep breathing as much as possible given that it can have such a positive impact on how you feel.
- A quick check to make sure you’re really aware of the difference between shallow breathing and deep breathing.
- Little triggers to remind you to breathe deeply during stressful situations and throughout the day.
Shallow Breathing vs. Deep Breathing
In order to distinguish between shallow breathing and deep breathing, shift your focus to your breath.
If you’re taking short, shallow breaths, you will notice your chest rise and fall quite quickly. When this happens, you’re only using the top part of your lungs to draw air in and out of your body, so the movement in your chest may only be very slight.
In contrast, if you’re breathing deeply, you’ll see your abdomen rise and fall as you inhale and exhale, which means that you’re using the full capacity of your lungs to draw air into your body, so the movement is much greater.
If you notice that your breathing is shallow, just empty your lungs of stale air with a long outward breath. Then as you take your next breath you will automatically take a deep breath and will see your abdomen rising and falling as you continue to breathe.
Remembering to Breathe Deeply
The main problem with deep breathing is simply remembering to do it, particularly when you’re engrossed in a task or feeling stressed out.
So, the way round this is simply to use every day activities to remind you to focus on your breathing.
For example, shift your focus to your breathing when you stop to have a drink, before each meal, when you hang up the phone, switch on your computer or check your emails, when you’re waiting at a red light or at the grocery check-out.
Alternatively, set the alarm on your phone to remind you to focus on your breath every couple of hours. You can even buy an app to go on your iphone, ipad or ipod that will act as a reminder.
I have half a dozen little green dots stuck around my home and office to remind me to take a few deep breaths.
Do whatever works for you.
As you pause to focus on your breathing, take at least 5-6 deep breaths in order to get the maximum benefit.
And remember, the more you practice focusing on your breath, the more it becomes a regular habit.
Second to None for Versatility
I just love this technique because you can, quite literally, use it anywhere…in a crowded room, at home on your own, on planes and trains, in the shopping mall, over dinner in a restaurant and lying awake in the middle of the night.
So, start breathing deeply and make it part of your everyday life!