Principle #1: Breathe Deeply

Adrenaline pulsed through my body. Fear raced through my mind. My heart pounded and my hands shook. Another panic attack had hit me. I was in a safe place. Nothing threatened me, so I followed my doctor’s advice, “Take control your breathing.” I focused on the short puffs of air flowing in and out of my body. The air seemed to reach no farther than the top of my chest. I purposefully drew in more air as I inhaled and forced out more air as I exhaled. Gradually, I changed from quick, shallow breathes to long, deep ones. As I breathed more deeply, the panic attack subsided.

Why should the way we breathe matter so much? Consider the way you react when something angers you. Your breathing becomes more rapid, right? Our breathing is part of a response system to any anger, fear, or stress that affects us. Because it is part of a system, we can change other parts of that system by changing the way we breathe. Controlling our heart rate or our shaking hands – and many other parts of the response system – is difficult. However, if you focus on your breath, you will find that you can control the way you breathe. Controlling your breathing will change the way other parts of the response system are behaving. Breathing deeply is the key to controlling the whole response system.

If you are angry, afraid, or under stress, don’t tell yourself to calm down. Instead, back up and breathe deeply. Your body will thank you and you will be able to handle any situation much better.

[Note: Like anything else, breathing deeply takes practice. This simple exercise from Wikipedia can get you started.

1. Sit or lie comfortably, with loose garments.
Put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.
Slowly inhale through your nose or through pursed lips (to slow down the intake of breath).
As you inhale, feel your stomach expand with your hand.
Slowly exhale through pursed lips to regulate the release of air.
Rest and repeat.