Hey girls! How are you doing? Really though, how are you doing? How are you feeling? What’s going on in your life, how are you handling it, and how do you feel about it?
There’s a ton going on, in your life, your community, your country, your world and all over the world in the world. Whether these things affect you directly or indirectly, you’re processing how it applies to you, and you feel the impact of it. So what do you to deal with it? And how is that working for you?
Learning how to handle stress better, how to respond instead of react, how to deal with day to day chaos— those are life skills that you’ll use for years — trust me.
So I want to teach you about a life skill tool, and it’s going to sound too easy, too simple to actually work, but I promise you it will make a difference. Are you ready?
That’s it. Breathing. I know, it seems so basic. Let me tell you how simply breathing can help you manage your stress response.
Have you ever been in a situation that suddenly caused you to worry or panic, like a confrontation with someone, a quiz you forgot about, an embarrassing moment, or you couldn’t find something or someone? You might remember feeling your face get hot, your heartbeat pick up, your breath get shorter, your mind racing. You didn’t know what to do next so you just froze or ran away or even reacted like a volcano. These are natural reactions to stress, fight or flight response, we are wired to work that way, it’s what kept humans alive when faced with threats ever since the Stone Age.
There are, however, more effective ways to respond to stress. In this episode we’ll focus on breathing.
So you know the SWAT team? They’re the Special Weapons And Tactics unit of a police department. They’re highly trained and skilled at responding to intensely stressful situations. They have to make the right split-second decisions, and one of the techniques they use to keep their minds clear is called “tactical breathing.” Literally, breathing is one of the most effective tools of the SWAT team.
Why do you think they practice breathing? Why is breathing so effective for people who have one of the most stressful jobs?
Breathing properly sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, then your brain can tell your body to slow down your heart rate and breaths, and clear your head so you can think of an effective response — not reaction — to the present stressful situation.
I’m going to first discuss the proper technique to breathing — yes, there’s a right way to do it.
Imagine that you have a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Before you take a sip, you inhale through your nose, smelling the rich sweet aroma and filling your lungs and stomach. Expand your stomach as you breathe in; it’s not huff and puff from your chest but a deep belly breath. Then you exhale steadily out your mouth to help cool your hot chocolate off. These hot chocolate breaths help you breathe properly and most effectively.
Now I’m going to describe a few of my favorite breathing exercises:
Triangle breaths – breathe in for three counts, hold your breath for three, breathe out for three, repeat. Like drawing a triangle. Let’s try a few together, remembering the hot chocolate.
Square/box breaths – breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, repeat. Like drawing a square. It may help to imagine following the sides of a square, or gently tracing one in the air with your finger. Let’s try a few together.
4-7-8 breaths – breathe in for four counts, hold for seven, breathe out for eight. This is especially effective if you can’t sleep.
You can do those techniques in the morning when you wake up, to get a fresh start on your day. Or in a stressful moment like how the SWAT team does tactical breathing. Or when you’re heading to bed to clear your head so you can rest well.
To help you remember all of this, I created a “Just Breathe” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.
If you have breathing techniques to add to this list, helpful feedback, or a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email: hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com.