I encourage all my clients to develop a mindfulness practice -- a set of exercises or activities and a routine for doing them that help build awareness of being here and now with very little judgement. This post reviews one of those exercises, focused exhalation breathing.
To begin, find a comfortable position where you are well supported. If you are sitting, I suggest feet on the floor, sitting upright, with shoulders relaxed, without leaning your back against anything. To be sure, this exercise can be done in almost any position; so the main thing is to be comfortable for the next few minutes.
The exercise is to breathe in normally through your nose, then breathe out through your mouth in a long, gentle, slow exhale. It may help to imagine you are breathing out through a straw. Try it for 3 or 4 breaths.
As long as you are breathing in normally, you will not hyperventilate or run short of breath. Then you can do this type of breathing as long as you like. And, it is hard to notice whether someone is breathing like this or not; you could do this standing in line and the person next to you might not know.
Notice how you feel after a few breaths. Most people describe feeling more relaxed, more calm. This will not reduce your anxiety level from a 10 to a 2; it can help you calm enough to think more clearly and give you time to consider your next move.
With practice, it will come to you easily at times when you are feeling anxious, nervous, or angry. As with most things, it helps to practice before you really need it -- we don't practice dribbling in the middle of basketball game. Add this to a 15 or 20 minute mindfulness practice each day and you should see useful results in two or three weeks. Some people find this a useful tool several times a day, others use it to help relax before bed. Try it for yourself, see if it fits in your mindfulness practice and in your life.
Wishing you peace, health, happiness and joy. Allen