Your mind can start to wander and create more and more thoughts when you start having flashbacks from the past or worrying about the future. As you think more about your past/future events, especially negative ones, you can’t help but worry and fear about them. The more thoughts and wonders you have, the more restless you are likely to feel. Soon enough, you will start to feel overwhelmed.
In this article, we will introduce two ways you can reduce overwhelming thoughts and help yourself relax: deep breathing and grounding.
Part 1: Deep Breathing
Yes, we do breathe as long as we live, but a certain breathing technique is very important for your well-being: deep breathing. Deep breathing will make you shift your focus to your body and the present moment.
It’s not a rocket science, and you can incorporate it to your everyday life. Not only does deep breathing help you relax and feel less overwhelmed, but it also helps you fall asleep if you do it before you go to sleep.
How to practice deep breathing
- Find a place where you can lie down or sit down at home.
If you are feeling restless outside of your home, find somewhere quiet and safe first before finding a place to sit down.
- If you are lying on a bed, couch or even on the floor, make sure you are lying on your back. Relax all parts of your body.
If you are sitting on a chair or on the floor, make sure you can sit comfortably and still. Straighten your spine to allow air to flow in your body.
- Close your eyes. This will help you focus solely on yourself and breathing.
If possible, close the curtain and put your phone in silent mode so that you won’t get distracted by the sounds and lights around you.
- Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Use your belly, not your chest. Breathing with your belly lets you inhale a lot more air, but also slows down your breathing.
- If you want to make sure, place one hand on your belly and place another on your chest. When you inhale, your belly and chest will rise, and they will shrink when you exhale.
- Continue for as long as you want, or until you feel calm.
Different breathing exercises
Now that you learned the basic of deep breathing, let’s try a few different exercises. We will also introduce how you can use your body (or visualize breathing patterns), which is helpful when you are assisting someone else.
- 4-7-8 breathing technique
This technique is simple: INHALE for 4 seconds, HOLD for 7 seconds, EXHALE for 8 seconds. Here is a video demonstrating how 4-7-8 breathing technique works and how you can incorporate it into your everyday life.
2. Box breathing exercise
Box breathing exercises is similar to 4-7-8 in the sense that you count as you breathe in and out. The difference is that you visualize your breathing by making a square in the air.
If you are assisting someone with deep breathing, draw a square in the air for them so that they can follow along.
Watch this video and follow along.
3. Wave breathing
In this exercise, you are making waves with your arms as you breathe. Raise your arms up as you inhale and put them down as you exhale. Do it as slow as you wish. This video demonstrates wave breathing:
There are also videos online that visualize breathing patterns with shapes, walk you through every step of your breathing, and teach you the benefit of deep breathing. Find your favourite one and incorporate it to your everyday life!
Part 2: Grounding
Another technique to relax yourself is called grounding. Grounding also helps bring your attention to the present moment. Although there are several grounding techniques, we will only focus on one technique called “the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding (coping) technique”
In this technique, you use the 5 senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste) and count down from 5. Although it does not focus on breathing much, it can bring yourself back to the present moment.
You can use your body for this technique. In fact, your body can make it easier!
Remember: there is no right or wrong answers to what you can see, touch, hear, smell or taste. Don’t stress about it.
Part 3: Other Tools
– MindShift: This is a free app that promotes awareness about anxiety and provides access to useful resources. You can keep track of your emotions daily, do breathing or grounding exercises, and learn how to cope with anxiety or fear. https://www.anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt/
– Meditation: Meditation is also effective for bringing your attention back to the present moment. If you have never tried meditation before, try some guided meditation first. It might be easier when someone walks you through every step.
This YouTube channel has various videos. https://www.youtube.com/c/GreatMeditation/videos
There are also apps like Calm and Headspace that specialize in meditation, but there are limited free programs.
Fletcher, J. (Feb 12, 2019). How to Use 4-7-8 Breathing for Anxiety. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417
Gotter, A. (Jun 17, 2020). Box Breathing. https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing
HealthlinkBC (Dec 16, 2019). Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255
Live & Dare (n.d.). What is Meditation? https://liveanddare.com/what-is-meditation/
Ritschel, C. (Aug 26, 2019). How to Ease Anxiety with the ‘54321’ Mindfulness Trick. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/anxiety-5-4-3-2-1-mindfulness-activity-trick-how-does-it-work-ease-anxiousness-immediately-a8199296.html