And then another, and another…. Deep breathing works on a scientific level! If you are or have been a client of mine, then you know this is one of my all time favorite coping skills.
How you choose to deep breathe is up to you, but here are some suggestions:
Sit or stand comfortably.Deeply inhale filling your lungs completely and slowly exhale, emptying your lungs completely. Try slowly counting to 4 on the inhale and 7 on the exhale if this helps.
Breathe slowly.The goal is to establish a deep rhythmic breathing. Establish a habit of taking 5-10 deep breaths per day. It will come in handy during stressful or emotionally overwhelming times.
Know that deep breathing works by stimulating the vagus nerve in your back, which sends signals to the brain to calm down and relax.
Meet your basic needs.When did you last eat? Drink water? Sleep? Use the restroom? Take your medications? When your body’s basic needs are not fully met, crisis symptoms can feel more intense.
Exercise.You might be feeling the urge to “fight or flight.” This is a physiological response to stressful situations. Try giving these symptoms a healthy outlet by taking a brisk walk, jumping rope, or swimming (if possible). Engage your body in physical movement to help release the feelings of fight or flight.
Avoid making an immediate decision.While we are often eager to “solve” the situation, in a crisis your thoughts and feelings may rapidly change, making it very difficult to make a decision in the moment. Unless the choice is immediate (to call 911 or not), put off making a choice for at least an hour.
Distract yourself.Watch TV (something light hearted and fun). Take a shower or bath. Make yourself a cup of decaf tea (Lavender Stress Relief by Yogi Tea is one of our faves). Play a game, preferably one you are good at. Pet your dog or cat. Cook. Read. Sleep. Listen to music. Listen to a guided meditation (YouTube and phone apps are a good source). It is not helpful to focus or worry too much about the situation. Give yourself a break.
Journal/Write about your experience.Take a minute to write out your thoughts, make a list of priorities, or write a letter (not for sending). Coloring or drawing our feelings can be very therapeutic as well.
Identify the Problem.Identify the problem, and ask yourself if you are doing everything that you possibly can to address the problem. If the answer is yes – relax. If the answer is no, make a plan for your next steps. Then relax.
Avoid Ultimatums.It may feel like you can’t handle something, or that coping is beyond your skill – but it’s not! Say positive things to yourself: “I feel overwhelmed and I know I can get through this.” “This feels awful and I can handle it anyway.” While it is trendy to say that we can’t handle something, or that we are “done,” these statements are not really accurate and send a message to yourself that you are helpless. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Avoid Drugs & Alcohol.Not only can drugs and alcohol be addictive and damaging to our body, they can intensify the crisis symptoms we are already experiencing and can lead to poor decision making.