Stress and anxiety have become widely recognised in today's fast paced life. With access to media 24 hours a day, long working hours and the rising cost of living it is hardly surprising that many of us are finding it more difficult to cope.
When talking to new clients, one of the most commonly reported symptoms of anxiety and stress is a shortness of breath coupled with feelings of a racing heart or palpitations. Some clients even experience these feelings whilst explaining their symptoms due to feelings of anxiety associated with entering the therapy room for the first time.
Focused breathing has been shown to be an effective way to reduce such feelings and it is a practice that we can all do, almost anywhere without anyone else knowing. The benefits of focused or conscious breathing are huge and include calming the nervous system, increasing the strength of our immune system and enabling our energy levels to become well balanced.
Most of us tend to shallow breathe when we are not focused on our breathing which involves very short in and out breaths and in most cases holding our breath without realising. This happens for many reasons due to our learned behaviour as we progress through life and can result in rising feelings of anxiety and stress. The good news is that we can all learn to breath differently.
Focused breathing involves taking the time to learn to breath naturally again. So how can we do this? There are many different ways and taking the time to find the one that suits you best will result in personal benefit for you. Below are a couple of methods that are widely used:
7:11 Breathing - This method involves working up to being able to inhale for the count of seven and exhale for the count of eleven. The breathing can be done either through the nose or through the mouth and you can start at a lower ratio such as 3:5. As you inhale try to imagine you are inflating a ball in your stomach to ensure the breath goes all the way down and when exhaling imagine the ball deflating.
Square Breathing - This method involves four steps: 1. breathing in for the count of four; 2. holding your breath for the count of four 3. exhaling for the count of four and holding your breath for the count of four. Repeating this sequence for a few minutes at a time can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. To aid this you may like to find something to look at that has four sides such as a door or mobile phone, this can help with mapping out the four segments as you work through them.
Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis has been shown to be an effective way of reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety and is a way to increase feelings of relaxation, confidence and self esteem.