Breathe Easier

by Brooke Miller, Therapist and Holistic Life Coach, Brooke Miller Coaching

Life is easier when we are able to manage our emotional state and our reactions.

One of the best things we can do for our mental well-being is to develop the skill of emotion regulation. Having money, intelligence, beauty or power doesn’t solve the personal and relationship problems that result from the inability to effectively manage stress, anxiety, mood and anger.

It’s helpful to start with recognizing our patterns.

Is there a bad habit you can’t shake? Do you respond with anger anytime you feel disrespected? Do you constantly over extend yourself and feel resentful?

Identify the emotional trigger and where it originated in your past; then identify what need the habitual response is attempting to fill. This starts the process of creating some understanding and self-compassion, while separating the past from the present.

Next we need an action plan to replace the knee-jerk response. Enter: motion regulation skills — the DOs to replace the DON’Ts. Skills are needed for both mind and body to manage our emotional state so we can consciously respond rather than unconsciously react.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a strategy that engages the mind and calms the body. It triggers a relaxation response by downregulating the nervous system, while giving the mind something to focus on besides the triggering event. Calming the nervous system and grounding in the present are two amazing benefits of diaphragmatic breathing.

The technique

On the exhale, squeeze the belly to completely empty the lungs (imagine the belly button reaching back toward the spine). Simultaneously form a small “o” with your mouth as if you are exhaling through a straw — this lengthens the exhale. Breathe in fully through the nose, and direct the breath to your lower belly.

As you continue to inhale and exhale, your lower belly should be filling and emptying, moving several inches with each breath. Continue until calm and repeat throughout the day as a grounding practice.

What was learned can be unlearned. New skills can be practiced and new habits can be formed. Life can be different.

Change can start here and now with self-awareness, a sacred pause and a slow, deep breath.