• Caitlin McHale

De-stress Your Body & Mind With Breathing (The thing we do 30,000 times a day without a thought...)

Learn to regain your focus & control when it counts the most

~ Weddings, Graduations or a special day

~ Interviews or presentations

~ Struggling to get to sleep

~ Exams or assignments

~ Important conversations

~ Tasks you hate doing

…. These are all examples of situations in which we can find ourselves becoming tense, nervous or anxious, but we want the best possible results we can get from them.

We often go through things in our day to day life that cause us to begin to panic or feel uneasy. You may even find yourself feeling this way with no idea what’s causing it. 

I believe it’s possible to get the very best results out of our challenges by giving our bodies and minds a nudge in the right direction, and a way to do this is by simply breathing. Breathing exercises have a way of dealing with the bodies physical reaction to stress, which, in turn, can calm your thoughts and allow you to regain focus and control.

When we’re experiencing stress, uncertainty or discomfort, our breathing can become very shallow. You might have a tense or locked jaw, stiff shoulders, and your breathing will occur high up in the chest area. You might feel dizzy and feel your heart beating very fast. Aside from these symptoms, we don’t always make our best decisions or seem ourselves when we’re stressed.

So... here are a few exercises that I recommend using! I often use these with singing or acting students for efficient breathing or to help with performance anxiety… but they also help me in any sort of important situation, and I hope, will help you out too! They can be done any time, any place, whether you're at home, adding this routine into your gym work out, or want to discreetly use them on trains or in the office.

1 Lowering The Breath

Before you start this exercise, just exhale. Like I always say: when in doubt, breathe out.

Lowering your breath means that we're trying to inhale into a deeper zone of your body.

~ Put a hand on your chest and breathe in and out a few times as you are currently. Feel the breath rising up and down in this shallow area of your body.

~ Move your hand to the area just below your chest towards the centre of your torso. Press your fingers into the area a little, and try to direct the air you breathe to this point instead. You should feel pressure against your hand as you inhale. 

~ Now move your hand to the lowest area of your stomach. Close you eyes and imagine the air moving all the way down your body and hitting the pit of your lungs as you inhale. As you do so, the area under your hands should expand as the lungs fill with air, and slowly deflate as you breathe out. Your shoulders and chest should be relaxed and unmoving.

You have now achieved a nice, low breath! This is the way we breathe when we’re relaxed or asleep. By encouraging your body do this you should have reduced symptoms of stress; perhaps calming your mind in the process too.

2. Timed Breathing

Now you have a low breath, you can try some timed breathing. This gives you a task to focus on other than whatever is worrying you.

~ Aiming the breath in the same low area, inhale through the nose for 8 seconds. If you feel full up of air and unable to continue inhaling before the 8 seconds in up, try again but with a slower, more controlled intake of breath this time. Breathe out of the mouth for 8 seconds, again making sure the breath creeps out slowly over the time period and not in one big rush.

~Repeat the process but for six seconds. Then four, and then two seconds. 

~ If you find yourself enjoying this and progressing well, try adding 12 and 10 seconds to the start of the process.

3. Adding in your favourite stretches or music...

~ You can try breathing slowly in this way in 4, 8 or 12 second periods to keep in time with a song that relaxes you or makes you happy. You could do this discreetly in an office or on the train with headphones in.

~ If you’re somewhere you can move about, you can add stretches to your breathing, for example, lifting your arms above your head, rolling your shoulders backwards and forwards, stretching your neck gently from side to side, or even lying down on the floor or in a prayer stretch.

Use whatever feels best for you!

So... just a few of my simple ways to use breathing to calm your mind and body, and regain focus.

Whether you struggle with anxiety, have a stressful job, or simply like to stay in tune with your breathing for relaxation, I hope these exercises help you to get the very best results out of all your challenges!

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