When we are anxious or excited we take short, shallow breaths from our chest – as opposed to when we are content and we breathe slowly and fully from the abdomen. When our thoughts are racing with worry or stress, our breath is too. When we are reflecting deeply and emotionally, we are breathing deeply and long.
Changing our breathing can have an immediate effect on blood pressure and a sense of wellbeing and feeling in control. Changing our breathing to slow and long can guide the body back into feeling calmer by activating our parasympathetic nervous system (associated with resting and digesting), away from the sympathetic nervous system (associated with fight and flight). We are effectively putting the brakes on our body’s stress responses. When we slow down like this, we are more able to think and feel rationally and calmly.
If you haven’t tried breathing exercise before and would like a tool to manage stress or anxiety, try breathing in for 5 counts and out for 7 counts over a few minutes, ideally in through the nose and out through the mouth; try to breathe from the abdomen rather than high in the chest. You could imagine warm sunshine when breathing in and breathing out unwanted feelings of black, red or blue. Then pay attention to how you feel in mind and body.