Regardless of whether you experience gripping anxiety, or find yourself uncomfortably nervous before a big presentation, slow, paced breathing can be your secret weapon to feeling calmer, clear-headed, and more in control.
Inhale for five seconds.... Exhale for five seconds.... Repeat.... That's it!
I've often shared this practice with patients to help them manage difficult emotions such as anxiety or anger. First, we work on cultivating an awareness of what it feels like when the difficult emotion starts to emerge. For some, this might mean feeling hot, nauseous, or short of breath. Others notice their hands start to sweat, or their heart begins to pound, or they freeze and can't move at all.
Second, we practice slow, paced breathing together, so they learn how to do this practice in a way that it will be most helpful. We sit up tall, with both feet on the floor, and with hands in the lap. Some individuals enjoy closing the eyes, others prefer to keep their eyes open. Either way is fine as long as it feels comfortable. We practice paying attention, on purpose, to the feel of the breath as it moves through the body... inhaling for five seconds, exhaling for five seconds, and repeating the process for 10 breath cycles.
Third, I give suggestions for a regular practice while at home, at school, or at work. It's your call as to how much time you give this practice ... one minute, two minutes or 10 minutes. I often suggest using a timer so you don't have to worry about counting breaths or how much time has passed. What's really important is not how long you practice, but that you practice, especially when you're not feeling overwhelmed. The more you practice when you're feeling fine, the more accessible slow, paced breathing will be when you need it most.
Finally, the moment you feel your physical symptoms of anxiety or anger emerge, start to slow things down internally. Pay attention, on purpose, and begin to breathe with intention... Inhale for five seconds.. Exhale for five seconds.. Repeat..
Connect to your calm even in the chaos of everyday life. It'll be your little secret.
For more information on this mindfulness practice, click on the following link: