Coping Skill: Breathe With Purpose

What are some other things we can do during the pause to help us cope with an overwhelming feeling and self-regulate? It’s the most basic of all things – breathing.

But here’s the thing … breathing normally is not necessarily going to help you regulate. In order to slow yourself down, return to a place of calm, and be able to process and manage whatever is going on, we have to breathe in a very specific way.

Slowly, deeply, and mindfully.

Why? Because when we’re stressed, our body functions elevate (blood pressure and heart rate to name a few). Deep breathing sends a signal to our brain that we are safe, that we can be calm as a result, and that therefore we can handle what is happening.

Here’s a simple technique called 4-4-4 breathing that you can use right away, no matter where you are:

  • While sitting, breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, sending the breath into your belly (it helps me to imagine it traveling to my stomach as I breathe in).
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4. 
  • Release your breath through your mouth with a whooshing sound (if you can) for a count of 8.
  • Without a break, repeat the entire technique 3-4 times in a row.

If that doesn’t work for you, or feels odd, I’d suggest you practice it daily. You can also search the internet for deep breathing techniques to see if there are other things that appeal to you more. Everyone is different, so find what works for you.

The main idea here is to use what you already have inside of you – your breath! – to access calm, get grounded, and manage your experience more effectively.

Let me know how it goes, and if you have other breathing exercises that work for you. I always like to learn more – and our community here welcomes your voice and experience.

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