Tip2 for Reducing Anxiety —- BREATHE
Increased anxiety causes our body to activate our natural flight or fight mode. This flight or fight response prepares our body for impending danger, harm or threat. As a result we usually experience, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, our nerves burn up and the chest tightens.
To counteract this response, we need to engage the relaxation response, which is hard wired into our brains as an antidote to the flight or fight response. The relaxation response acts like a muscle that when triggered releases neurochemicals which counteract the flight or fight response.
So there’s a couple of ways to engage this relaxation response ‘muscle’
1. Focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Such words as “one,” “love” and “peace” work well.
I use to use the word Relax (as bizarre as it may sound).
The trick here is to say whatever word you choose very slowly, focusing on the word as well as your breath. Purposely trying to slow everything down, so that the word you use takes as long as it takes to breathe in and then again when you breathe out.
2. Deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises, with a focus on the breath, can trigger the relaxation response. This can be hard to get, but with practice, you’ll get better at it each time. The easiest way for me to explain this is, imagine you have a balloon in your diaphragm and you’re trying to blow it up. If you put your hands on your diaphragm, you should feel your hands rise. When you push out as you breather in, you should not only feel the expansion but feel the sensation of the depth of your breathing. When you are ready, exhale slowly…count to 10 slowly if you need help to gauge how slowly you’re going.
So if you’re feeling the anxiety rise, take some time out…go outside if you can and practice slow deep breaths until you can feel calmer and your heart rate has returned to normal.
If you’re at an event which is causing you distress this Christmas, find a spot where you can go and initiate your breathing and remain there until you feel ok.
Reach out to someone you can trust and let them know you’re struggling too and if you need to get them to come with you to help you focus on your breath. Support can work wonders in this case.