I don't know about you, but whenever I'm stressed out or pissed off, the last thing I want to hear is "Just breathe." But "just breathing" is one of the best tricks to calm yourself down. I've adapted techniques from yoga and acting classes to give you these 3 breathing exercises to calm down.
How does Breathing Help you Calm Down?
McKenna Princing explains the science behind breathing and relaxation by breaking down the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Basically, the sympathetic nervous system is your fight or flight response, and your parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of rest and relaxation.
Princing explains that those two systems can't be engaged at the same time. When you're fighting and flighting, you can't be maxing and relaxing. So forcing yourself to emulate calm, relaxed breathing can encourage your body to follow suit. It's the ultimate fake it 'til you make it.
So what do these breathing exercises to calm down look like?
Breathing Exercises to Calm Down
1. Trace Your Hand
When I'm ramping up, the game I call Trace your Hand really helps me focus on my breathing, slow down, and calm down.
Take a finger from one hand to trace your opposite hand. When you trace up the thumb, take a nice, deep inhale. Then exhale as you trace down the inside of your thumb. Repeat up and down each finger until you trace your entire hand.
I always find that the tactile sensation of my finger tracing my other fingers reconnects me to my breathing quicker than other exercises. I also love that I can do this exercise in public, as long as I'm pretty subtle about it.
2. Nostril Party
The next breathing exercise is one I call Nostril Party. I guess my definition of party is pretty broad, but this one is still a nice way to slow down and get more oxygen pumping into your dome.
Just place a thumb and finger over your nostrils. Press down on one nostril and take a slow, deep breath with your open nostril. Basically, you breathe out and in with one nostril, then alternate and breathe out and in with the other.
Repeat this cycle five times going as slowly and deeply as you can. I prefer closing my eyes, so this one may not be the best way to calm down while you're walking to work.
3. Birthday Cake-Hands
The name of this breathing exercise is ridiculous. I get it. But it is a quick way to refocus on my breathing instead of just freaking the hell out.
Just pretend your hand is a birthday cake and your fingers are the candles. Focus on one candle (finger), make a wish, and blow the candle out (blow on the finger and then put that finger down).
Then repeat with your other finger-candles.
I love that this breathing exercise is quick and involves wishes. Because I love wishes because who doesn't love wishes.
Final Thoughts on Breathing Exercises to Calm Down
Of course, it's important to get plenty of sleep, eat right, and manage the stress in your life. But these 3 breathing exercises to calm down give you a quick way to deescalate yourself throughout your day.
The added bonus: if you "just breathe" before someone can tell you to "just breathe," you don't have to hear them offer their totally infuriating advice.