I’ve been using a particular deep breathing technique for several years now which I was taught when training to become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist with The Quest Institute. As well helping me stay calm and reducing my levels of stress in the past when I went through some major changes, many of my clients have reported back to me how useful they find it. In fact, only last week a client mentioned how it had helped her when she unexpectedly had to go into hospital. She described how she felt more in control because of it. Its really simple but can be very effective in many situations. It can help you to feel more in control, regain a sense of calm, reduce stress and anxiety and also help with panic attacks. In addition, it can help deal with any cravings from addictions such as stopping smoking and obsessive behaviour compulsions.
Its called the ‘7/11’ breathing technique and the way it works is that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) which controls activities in the body associated with rest and relaxation. These include eating, sleeping, digesting food and making love – basically the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system associated with the fight/flight mechanism! This breathing technique focuses on the out breath and it is the out breath that stimulates the PSNS.
How to breathe for calm:
1. First of all be aware that you are going to focus on breathing from deep down in your abdomen so imagine there is a balloon in your stomach and you are going to inflate it. You could put your hands on your lower abdomen while you do this initially and aim to keep your chest and shoulders fairly still. If you find yourself inflating your chest and/or lifting your shoulders then stop and start again focusing just on inflating your lower abdomen.
2. Take a breath in through your nose counting to seven (not seconds just counting) as you breath in.
3. Breath out through your mouth whilst counting to 11.
4. Do this for 5-10 minutes until you feel calm or calmer!
Sometimes just doing this for 10 out breaths can get you back to feeling in control! If you find counting to 7/11 is difficult for any reason then try 5/8 or 3/5 (whatever works best for you) as long as you make the out breath longer than the in breath.
Breathing effectively can reduce your stress levels
A final note about breathing that is worth mentioning is that people who are stressed generally take shallow, rapid breaths from high up in their chest. This means that they may not be breathing in enough oxygen or eliminating enough carbon dioxide therefore upsetting the delicate balance of the body and contributing to feelings of tension. This is in contrast to people who are generally relaxed and laid back – their breathing patterns tend to be slow and deep! Practising this technique regularly will get you in touch with more effective breathing which can have many benefits including a reduction in your stress levels.
If you haven’t used this technique before then give it a go and let me know how you get on!