Hey beautiful Mummas,
I hope you are keeping safe and well. Navigating COVID-19 has been such an intense roller coaster! Although we have been able to slow down from our previously fast-paced schedules, we are still experiencing stress in different ways – home-schooling (arghhhh!!), constant media reports on the pandemic, worrying about vulnerable friends/family members, not to mention being with our children and partners constantly with no escape!
As amazing as we Mummas all are, these are tough sometimes, mentally, emotionally and physically – we need a little support, right? Please read on to learn 3 powerful breathing techniques to calm stress. I use them personally and they make a real difference in my ability to cope with life in these times. Now, I am human and so I do forget to practice them some days, but when I do remember, the positive effects are immediate and give me relief. So, as one Mumma to another, I urge you to try these breathing tools for yourself and be consistent, as the benefits just get better the more you do it!
Breath as a Stress Management Tool
With no gym or yoga class (or pub!) to flee to for self-nourishment, we need to use the resources we have around us to manage our emotions and stress levels. Your breath is an extremely powerful tool for this. It is free and portable (it goes where you go), you have immediate access to it, and you don’t need any equipment. It’s also something you’re doing 24/7 anyway!
I want to share with you some remarkably effective breathing techniques to help you feel calm and able to cope in these times. Over the last 10 years I have used these methods in my life and also learnt how to breathe for energy and inner strength.
Why Use the Breath?
Breathing techniques are designed to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation. Specific techniques that involve holding the breath for a period of time allow your body to replenish its oxygen. They also help bring the body back into balance and regulate the fight-or-flight response we feel when we’re stressed. This is particularly helpful if you’re experiencing sleeplessness due to anxiety or worries about what is happening in the world right now and how this will all end.
Below I share my top 3 powerful breathing techniques to calm stress. If you can start using these daily and make it a consistent practice, the benefits will accumulate over time as your energy levels rise, your mood improves and you feel in a state of calm. I can’t wait for you to get stuck in, so read on!
Alternate nostril breathing.
This technique originates from yoga science and is one of the most powerful techniques I use – it’s especially good before bed to help you calm your mind and body to ensure good sleep. It’s also a quick and easy way to reduce anxiety during the day – if you can escape to the toilet or your bedroom for 5 minutes to do it, that’s all it takes to experience results.
How to Practice this Technique
- Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed.
- Place your left hand on your left knee.
- Lift your right hand up toward your nose.
- Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your ring finger.
- Open the right nostril and exhale through this side.
- Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril.
- Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side.
- This is one cycle.
- Continue for up to 5 minutes.
- Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.
The 4-7-8 Breath Technique
Created by the world renown Dr Andrew Weill, this breathing technique has become extremely popular in recent years. It also has its roots in yoga and ancient Indian philosophy. It’s so simple and effective, involving breath control to re-balance the sympathetic nervous system (which influences anxiety and restlessness).
Dr Weill advises you do this twice a day for 5 minutes. After doing this for several days it will become easier to do and overtime you may see changes in your body such as improved digestion and overall calmer body state. You can then use it when something happens in your day and you need help to calm down – for example after a confrontation with a child, when your partner triggers you, or when you’re overwhelmed with news and social media reports.
Over time and with repeated practice, practitioners of 4-7-8 breathing say it becomes more and more powerful. You might feel a little lightheaded the first time you try it but please persist and you will see great results.
How to Practice this Technique.
- Sit or lay quietly with your spine straight (if you’re using the technique to fall asleep, lying down is best)
- Let your lips part. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth. Close your mouth.
- Inhale through your noise for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale through the mouth for 8 (making a ‘whoosh’ noise).
Do 4 rounds of this. Not less or more than 4.
Heart Coherence Technique
Heart coherence is form of mindfulness meditation involving visualisation. It encourages focused breathing while guiding your attention to the present moment and your heart, which in turn balances your heart and brain rhythms. This technique was created by the HeartMath institute and is based on 25 years of scientific research.
In this form of meditation, we visualise breathing in and out of our heart, the result of which regulates your heart rhythm patterns and your cognitive and emotional functioning. This meditation is effectively using the power of your heart to balance your thoughts and emotions, giving you energy and mental clarity.
Mummas – this is really fascinating stuff!! I encourage you to read more of the scientific research. I have done several of the courses available by Heartmath and there is also technology you can buy to help you balance your heart energy. It will be something great to teach your kids too.
Below is a graph showing you the difference in heart patterns when you feel frustration vs appreciation.
The difference in your heart pattern when you are feeling frustration vs appreciation (graph from Heartmath.com)
How to Practice this Meditation
This meditation is very simple but effective. It will take some consistent practice to start really feeling the powerful benefits. You can also find these meditations on YouTube for free.
- Focus your attention in the area of the heart.
- Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual (suggested to breath in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds).
- Picture or imagine something or someone you appreciate or care for in your life (such as your child, a pet, a place in nature you love).
- You may feel a little smile form on your lips as you appreciate the thing or person.
- Continue to visualise your breath flowing in and out of our heart area.
So there you are Mummas, my top 3 powerful breathing techniques to calm stress. I hope you try them and make them into a daily practice in order to reap the benefits. Now more than ever we need to use our own inner resources and a little time spent focusing on your breath will bring huge benefits.