Taking a deep breath is an effective way to calm your body down when overwhelmed with emotion, particularly anxiety. Slow, rhythmic breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest system, which triggers a series of bodily changes that calms your body down. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits below the lungs and the heart. It is the primary muscle involved in breathing. The following blog post will walk you through diaphragmatic breathing, intentional breath work that will assist in calming your body and decreasing overwhelming emotion.
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. As you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing, the goal is to move from chest breathing to belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing. Notice that when most people breath, their chest rises and falls. Our goal is to move from your chest rising and falling to your stomach expanding and contracting.
- Take a deep breath in. As you take this breath in, imagine a balloon. The stem of the balloon is in your esophagus and the body of the balloon is your stomach. As you take a deep breath in, imagine filling the balloon with air so your stomach begins to expand.
- Slowly release this breath. Imagine gently squeezing the balloon and it deflating. Practice this process until you get accustomed to taking a breath in with your stomach expanding and releasing your breath with your stomach contracting.
- Breath in for four seconds and then slowly release that breath for six seconds. This slows your breathing rate down and engages your parasympathetic nervous system.
Diaphragmatic breathing works to calm your body down. It is particularly effective when you are overwhelmed with emotions such as anxiety. However, this can be effective for other overwhelming emotions such as anger and panic. This is also very useful if you are trying to relax the tension in your body to fall asleep. This, as with all interventions, requires practice. Give yourself the space to practice this technique when you are not in emotional distress, so when you are feeling overwhelmed, you can quickly engaged this developed skill.