Looking for a simple way to boost your energy levels and calm anxiety during lockdown? These breathing techniques could help you to do just that.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus lockdown has left many of us feeling a bit out of sorts.
Whether we’re struggling to come to terms with our “new normal”, feeling sluggish or unmotivated or experiencing an all-over emotional rollercoaster, we’re all looking for new ways to alleviate those moments of distress and keep ourselves well during this tricky time.
Thanks to the internet, we now have a library of resources and self-help guides at our disposal, with many brands offering their content for free during the coronavirus crisis. From mindfulness meditation to peer support sessions, there’s lots of new self-care techniques to get familiar with during lockdown.
One such technique is, of course, the use of breath to calm and realign the body. It’s no secret that deep breathing is a great way to calm the body, but for those of us who have never tried it before, it can seem like a bit of a mystery.
With this in mind, we asked Stuart Sandeman, the UK’s leading breath expert and Founder of Breathpod, to tell us more about how breathing can help us and introduce us to a couple of breathing techniques we can do at home.
How does breathing work to calm and realign the body?
“Using your breath to calm the body and mind is one of the most effective and powerful tools we as humans embody,” Sandeman explains. “Your breath is a direct link to your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system has two response states: Sympathetic (your stress response, often referred to as flight or fight response) and Para- Sympathetic (your rest response, where you digest and repair).
“When you are in a state of stress, anxiety or overwhelm, there is a dominance towards your sympathetic system. In this state, your brain increases muscle blood flow and tension, accelerates your heart rate and respiration, increases perspiration and arterial bloody pressure – the same effect as if you were being chased by a tiger!”
He continues: “In times of stress, breathing deeply using your diaphragm and consciously controlling your breathing pattern using certain techniques will help to de-stress, re-balance and calm the mind and body.
“Breathing in this way activates your para-sympathetic response which slows down heart rate, relaxes muscles and quietens the parts of the brain that handle the anxiety response. It works to bring the body back into alignment.”
Wondering how you can put your new knowledge about breathing to practice? Give one of the following techniques a go.
Breathing to reduce anxiety and alleviate stress: the “double calm breath” technique
“A simple deep breathing exercise to move into a para-sympathetic state is to do the Breathpod ‘Double Calm’ Breath, which we do by simply doubling the length of the exhale to the length of the inhale,” Sandeman explains.
How to do the “double calm breath” technique:
- Inhale for count of 4 through the nose
- Exhale through pursed lips for a count of 8
- Inhale for count of 5 through the nose
- Exhale through pursed lips for a count of 10
- Inhale for a count of 6 through nose
- Exhale for a count of 12
Top Tip: If the increase in lengths is too much, just repeat steps 1 and 2 – inhale for 4, exhale from 8.
Breathing to boost energy levels and improve oxygen uptake: the “box breathing” technique
“Box Breathing balances the autonomic nervous system, a system which regulates involuntary body functions like temperature,” Sandeman explains. “It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost-immediate sense of calm, improve your mood and will also keep you energised, motivated and alert.”
How to do the “box breathing” technique:
- Inhale through nose into the belly for a count of 4
- Hold Breath for a count of 4 (Try not to clamp down muscles when holding breath, simple avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds)
- Exhale through the nose for a count of 4
- Hold Breath for a count of 4
- Repeat 4 rounds
Top Tip: Over time you can push the numbers up to 5, 5, 5, 5.
Stuart is hosting regular Instagram Lives on @breathpod to help those suffering from stress and anxiety. For more information about breath work, including how breathing can boost our immune system, you can sign-up for Breathpod’s free Zoom sessions on Wednesdays at 7pm.
For more information on taking care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, check out our guide to seeking support here. To find out more about anxiety, and access resources to help you cope, you can check out the NHS Every Mind Matters website or visit Mind.
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