Friday, 16 May 2014

'E' is for Exhale.

When you pause to consider, without breath, we have no life: our nervous systems are driven by inhaling and exhaling. It thus follows that by changing our breathing we can influence millions of biochemical reactions in our body. These chemicals have a major impact on us physically and mentally, so, in my fifth blog using the letters of A.N.X.I.E.T.Y., I'm going to share some thoughts on Exhalation.

Many people who experience high levels of anxiety are known to breathe shallowly, through their chest. This disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary to be in a relaxed state. By slowing the breath and inhaling more deeply, we can bring down the heart rate and reduce the amount of adrenaline the body produces, which helps us calm down.

When you feel anxiety rise, here is a simple technique I've found useful. It's called The Measured Breath.

Sit or stand, but make sure your hands are relaxed and your knees are soft
Drop your shoulders and let your jaw relax
Now breathe in slowly through your nose and count to four, keep your shoulders dowand allow your stomach to expand as you breathe in
Hold the breath for a moment. Now release your breath slowly and smoothly as you count to seven
Repeat for a couple of minutes

Another popular technique is Belly Breathing. It's especially effective when panic or anxiety attacks strike, but I recommend you try it when you feel only slightly stressed so you become familiar with it. Then, if you find anxiety rising or catch yourself hyperventilating, you can start belly breathing immediately and it will help you feel in control, fast.

Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Make sure your shoulders are down and relaxed. Your stomach should expand, but your chest should rise very little. If you want, you can place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest so you can feel how you are breathing.
Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep tongue and jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft whooshing as you exhale. Listen for that sound every time you practise and learn to value it as the sound of relaxation
Repeat this for several minutes. Make your outgoing breath as long and smooth as you can. The exhalation is the key to relaxation, so give it your full attention

Now you've two tools for managing anxiety that you can take with you anywhere.

Sarah Rayner
A Moodscope member.

Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope are giving away a signed copy of Sarah Rayner's new novel, Another Night, Another Day which is available exclusively from Waterstones. Its focus is mental health, and it's a touching tale of people and their journey through tough times, told with humour and warmth. Today is another chance to win. Just email with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.

The Moodscope Team.