These days, there’s no escape from stress. Even the most zen people in life have times when they lose control. Anxiety levels in America are on the rise. It all seems overwhelming, but there is a simple and effective technique that can help. Did we mention it’s free?
Yes, we’re talking about deep breathing. It’s one of the obvious things to do, but it’s also very helpful – when you actually do it properly to help manage anxiety and stress. So how can you use deep breathing to help you calm down and why does it work? Nina Smiley, PhD, a psychologist and director of the Positive Thinking Program at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, shares her knowledge on this topic.
How to Stop and Calm Negative Thoughts
What to do
Because you’re not a regular yoga or meditation practitioner, before you think of breathing as a stress reliever – don’t do it! It takes no experience to enjoy the benefits of deep breathing.
Smiley tells SheKnows: “If you find yourself in a state of stress, immediately turn your attention to your breathing patterns.”
First, focus yourself by taking slow, full breaths.
“As you inhale and exhale, silently say to yourself ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale.” In this cycle, if a thought comes to mind, gently and without judgment, acknowledge it and let it go, returning to the breath,” Smiley explains. “Using positive breathing, you’ll find your mind is clearer and your body more relaxed, allowing you to handle stressful situations as skillfully as possible.”
In particularly stressful situations, when you may be looking for more of a quick start, Smiley suggests holding your body muscles and holding your breath for a moment as you inhale fully.
She says: “As you exhale slowly, release all the tension in your body.” This will help you release the stress from your body. As you begin and continue to breathe positively, you will feel the urgency of the change.”
Why it works
First, when you stop (or slow down) what you’re doing to breathe, it gives you a minute to rest (even if it’s a short one) from whatever it is that’s causing you stress. But more importantly, it’s good for the body.
Smiley explains: “Breathing helps us fight stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and allows you to relax.” “As you practice breathing and meditation more regularly, you begin to build a new neural pathway in your brain that you can access during times of stress.”
Ultimately, Smiley says, breathing techniques and meditation can lead to significant benefits, such as lower blood pressure, enhanced focus, better relationships and increased productivity.
So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, take a minute to breathe deeply – it can help calm you down and put things in perspective.