I think I must have been around the age of 9 when I discovered the benefits of controlled breathing and I have used it pretty much every day since. Bearing in mind I was 9 in the 1980's, it shows what an impact it had on me, as I certainly didn't learn it from being given this information. Back then, you just had to get on with it!
To give you a little of the background as to why I needed this tool in my life, especially at such a young age, will hopefully help you understand how powerful a tool it is when facing stress, anxiety, sleepless nights etc.
I was sent to boarding school at the age of 7. To say I was unhappy is an understatement but I never told my parents and put on a brave face and pretended I was happy. At times over the years I was happy but, it was only later in life I looked back and realised how sad I had been and how much anxiety and stress I harboured in myself and I honestly believe it was the start of my depression.
Obviously at the time I didn't realise what these feelings were. I still remember a day where I was so overwhelmed in an art class, with profound sadness (depression?!) I had to run out and find an empty class room to breath and calm down.
The way my anxiety manifested itself was with horrendous tummy aches (interestingly I had always suffered from them to the point my mum had even taken me to the Dr when I was as young as 3 yrs) , sometimes resulting with being sick. Most of the time this happened just before lights out. I hated lights out as I could never sleep, was always lying awake, listening to everyone else sleeping and just feeling this profound loneliness. Even now just writing this, remembering the feeling is making me feel sick. Not surprising I got a full on phobia about being sick!
And so it was one of these nights, and its still so vivid in my memory, I started feeling the tummy ache come on and the sick feeling. One of the horrid matrons came in and she had no time for me and always got annoyed. When I told her I had one of my tummy aches she rolled her eyes and said "Oh for goodness sake just take deep breaths!"
So I did and very slowly. I don't remember how long I did this, but I distinctly remember feeling myself calm and the tummy ache and sickness leaving. The relief was huge. I cannot tell you, it was just like the biggest weight had been lifted. And that was it, I started using breathing regularly every time I felt overwhelmed, unhappy, anxious or couldn't sleep.
Hand on heart, It is the most powerful tool in my personal kit to tackle any obstacle and the great thing is, it can be done at any time in any place, even exams, because it doesn't have to be noisy, just controlled.
Over the years I have read up on different types of breathing and I have changed my technique since that life changing night. I still suffer from terrible tummy aches as it is clearly where I hold all my emotions and stress but I know with my breathing routine, it will only be a short time before they ebb away.
Below is one of the techniques I use on a regular basis because it is discreet and easy, but I have also added a link for many other types you may like to look into.
This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.
You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.
You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
If you're sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
- Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.