Picture this scenario: You are running late, rushing like crazy and hurrying to be at a certain place at a specific time. Traffic is horrendous. On top of that, every light magically turns red just as you near the intersection. To add insult to injury, as you approach the train tracks —which you are certain haven’t been used in decades because you have never seen a train on them…ever!— the warning lights start flashing and the bar goes down, preventing you from moving at all. Now you are stuck in your car with nowhere to go, feeling absolutely helpless, as what appears to be the longest, slowest moving set of box cars creeps by. Your blood pressure rises, your heart pounds thunderously and your breathing quickens and becomes shallow.
Even if this particular incident has never happened to you— at one time or another—you’ve experienced situations that pushed your buttons to the max.
So what should you do when you feel like you’re about to explode and there is no relief in sight?
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Abdominal breathing is the easiest way to elicit the relaxation response. Try these exercises when you have some uninterrupted, quiet and free time. For maximum benefit, practice them every day:
Deep Breathing- Count Down From 10
Sit in a chair, your back supported, your feet on the floor, with your hands flat on your thighs. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply (for a count of 10). Pause. Exhale deeply pushing all the stale air out. Feel your shoulders relax as you exhale. Repeat this process 10 times, starting at “10” and counting down until you reach “1”. Open your eyes after you have completed this exercise.
Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Fill lower lungs so only your left hand goes upward while your right hand remains still. Do this 8-10 times. Next, inhale first into your lower lungs as before and continue inhaling into your upper chest. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little bit as your abdomen falls. As you exhale, slowly make a “whooshing” sound with your mouth as first your left hand, then your right hand falls. As you exhale, feel the tension leave your body as you become more and more relaxed. Do this 8-10 times.
When stressed, your body becomes flooded with chemicals that prepare you to deal with the emergency. Deep breathing counters this effect by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. This powerful yet simple relaxation technique will increase your ability to remain calm in the face of life’s problems and adversities.
Then practice these techniques every day. When stressful situations arise, you can immediately start the breathing techniques and quickly reverse the stress response.