Tools to Help
HOW TO BEGIN TO RETRAIN YOUR BREATHING PATTERN
The first step is to become aware of how you breathe. You may like to use a daily prompt to remind you to check in with your breath, like every time you have a drink or every time the phone rings or you use the loo.
Notice if your breath has become shallow and high in your chest. Notice if you tend to hold your breath if you are really concentrating on something. Notice if you get out of breath while talking. Notice what happens when you sit down at the computer...does your posture tends to crumple forwards....does your breath rise in anticipation of what will be on the screen?
SLOW DOWN. Decelerate! If you find yourself rushing, ask yourself how necessary this alarmed state is. Is the situation important enough for you to lose your peace of mind?
If you do find yourself over-breathing, take a moment to notice where your mind is. Are you racing ahead into the future, mentally rehearsing a future event? Are you mulling over an upsetting scenario from the past?
PRACTICE 4X4X4 BREATHING
There are many and varied complicated breathing exercises you can use. However the simplest place to start once you become aware of your habits is:-
4 TIMES A DAY
TAKE 4 BREATHS
COUNT IN FOR 4
COUNT OUT FOR 4
You can count at a speed that feels comfortable for you to begin with, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth if possible.
Over time you can slow down your counting pace. You will notice that after the in-breath there is a little pause before you need to breathe out, and after the out-breath there is also a little pause before your next in-breath. Explore and lengthen these pauses if you can. Be curious about this breath that you often tend to take for granted!
As you become comfortable with this practice you can begin to lengthen the outward count, perhaps counting out for 6 and then 8.
The real secret is not to struggle with to correct your breathing this only creates mental tension and since the breath is the interface between mind and body, a tense mind will affect your ability to breathe in a relaxed way.
Try to find a quiet place to practice , allow your shoulders to drop away from your ears. Let your shoulder blades move towards each other a little, and glide down your back to allow your front chest open and expand. You may find the posture meditation helpful before you start.
There are many good books and Cd's which can support you as you develop your ability to relax and unwind, I have listed some of my favourites below, and there are more resources in the mindfulness and yoga sections.
I have offered some versions of relaxation training for you to try. There is a version of a technique known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, as well as a general Bodyscan Relaxation. I have also included a short Mountain Meditation. This is more of a visualisation practice, which may help you regain a sense of stability , groundedness and strength at time when you feel a little shaky!