Just before you feel like you’re going to snap, you’ve probably had that friend casually say, “Chill out. Take a breath.” Although that statement usually provokes a response of rage instead of relaxation, it is in fact sound advice.
However, there is definitely a right way and a wrong to do it if the end goal is to relax.
First, what NOT to do (which, unfortunately, is exactly the thing most people do…).
Imagine someone hyperventilating. How do you see them breathing? Their chest rises and falls in deep waves and their mouth gapes open through short fast inhales and exhales.
What we should to do is the exact opposite. First close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Then check yourself and be sure you’re not breathing into your chest. You should feel your abdomen filling with air instead. Try placing one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Be sure only the hand on your stomach is moving when you breathe. The other should be still.
These are the easiest places to begin when using breath to calm yourself. In general, focusing on how you are breathing or even counting your breaths is going have an effect on your mood. Just this simple shift in focus can help put the situation in perspective and bring our bodies back to a more relaxed state. But, sometimes we need something extra to help us focus and ultimately chill out.
The next step would be to focus not just on the our number of breaths, but how long each inhale, inhale breath hold, exhale, and exhale breath hold last. One of the easiest and most effective ways to use this is called “Cadence Breathing.” Here’s an example:
Breathing smoothly in and out your nose inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 6. Repeat for 5 minutes. If 3 and 6 feel too fast go to 4 and 8 to keep the ratio the same.
Using breathing tools may be the easiest way to find some peace and calm amid chaos. Plus, your newfound calm and happiness will spread to some people around you who probably really need it. Happy breathing!