in-breath 1 ... 2 ... 3 ...
out-breath 1 ... 2 ... 3 ...
how relaxed breathing works
During periods of stress and anxiety, the body triggers a set of symptoms called the stress response. Breathing becomes shallow and rapid, heart rate increases and muscles become tense. In contrast to the stress response is the relaxation response. Breathing becomes slower and the symptoms of anxiety fade. Slow breathing triggers this response.
How to do relaxed breathing
To practice, make sure you are sitting or lying comfortably. Close your eyes. Try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. Deliberately slow your breathing down. Breathe in to a count of 3, pause for a moment, then breathe out to a count of 3. Make sure that your breaths are smooth, steady and continuous. Pay particular attention to your out-breath - make sure it is smooth and steady.
Am I doing it right? What should I be paying attention to?
Relaxed breathing should be low down in the abdomen (belly) and not high in the chest. You can check this by putting one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Try to keep the top hand still, your breathing should only move the bottom hand. Focus your attention on your breath - some people find it helpful to count in their head to begin with (”In ... two ... three ... pause ... Out ... two ... three ... pause ...”)
How long and how often?
Try breathing in a relaxed way for at least a few minutes at a time - it might take a few minutes for you to notice an effect. If you are comfortable, aim for 5-10 minutes. Try to practice regularly - perhaps three times a day and at the same time each day. Try to practice when you notice your breath is more rapid or you're feeling stressed.
Variations and troubleshooting
Find a slow breathing rhythm that is comfortable for you. Counting to 3 isn’t an absolute rule. Try 4 or 5. The important thing is that the breathing is slow and steady.
Some people find the sensation of relaxing to be unusual or uncomfortable at first but this normally passes with practice. Do persist and keep practising.
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