TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Science has shown that slowing our breathing helps us calm down. Research also shows that taking a few minutes to do breathing exercises can help relax our brains and make it easier for us to cope with stress and make thoughtful decisions.
Start by simply stepping aside and taking a deep breath whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).
Here’s another breathing exercise that you can do daily. It only takes a few minutes.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is really simple and quick. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that with this breathing technique, you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you.
MORE WAYS TO PRESS PAUSE…
The simple acts of getting up, getting out and moving our bodies are scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve our perspective. When we’re feeling so much anxiety, stress or anger in the moment, it can be hard to think clearly or to decide how to react or what to do next. If the situation allows you to step away for a minute, talk a walk around the block to let yourself breathe and calm down.
If you can incorporate it into your school or work day, try to get up and move around every hour or two. It does amazing things for your body and for your mind.
Click through for more tips and videos to get you moving.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the difficult or negative stuff, that we lose sight of all the good things in our lives. Taking a few minutes to be grateful can really change our perspective.
An easy way to get started is a Gratitude Journal. You can use an actual journal or writing pad to keep a list of the things you’re grateful for, or you can use the notes app in your phone or tablet. In moments when you are feeling overwhelmed or pessimistic, pull our your list to remind yourself that there are still lots of things to be thankful for.
Click through for more ideas to incorporate gratitude into your day.
We all have those days when everything seems to come crashing down on us at one time. There’s that moment of panic when our brains hit overload and the only thing we can think is….this is impossible. When that happens, we have to remember two things:
We can’t make our best decisions or be productive when we’re in total panic mode. We have to take a deep breath and a moment to regroup.
And, we can only do one task at a time. So instead of obsessing over the impossibility of getting everything done…we have to prioritize.
Click through for more tips on prioritizing and making lists.
Here’s a super simple 5-step meditation you can do anywhere, anytime:
1. Find a spot to sit (or lie) comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Breathe naturally. Don’t try and control it.
4. Spend 3 to 5 minutes focusing on your breath and how your body moves as you inhale and exhale.
5. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath/body movements.
Click through more meditation info and techniques.
Talking to a friend or family member can really help us calm down and get perspective when we’re feeling overwhelmed. It might seem easier in the moment to send a text or email, but actually talking to someone you trust and hearing a familiar voice can be comforting and calming.
In a moment of panic, we might shut down the idea of calling friends because they’re busy or we don’t have time to go into all the details. It can still be so calming just to call and say hi, and then make plans to get together later to talk about what’s going on.
Click through for more tips.