Why Breathing to Calm Down Doesn’t Work

Calming Breath

It’s no secret that deep breathing will calm you down when you’re stressed out. Unless, of course, you’re someone who can’t calm down when you breathe deeply.

You could take a Valium or a Xanax. But if that works for you, then you’re probably not looking around for alternate ways to calm down.

The trick for you is to learn how to make deep breathing calm you.

The reason deep breathing doesn’t calm you down

When deep breathing doesn’t work to calm you down, it’s because your body is not actually allowing you to breathe deeply. You think you are taking deep breaths, but in reality, your breath is shallow.

What seems like a “deep” breath for you may not be a “deep” breath at all. That’s because a deep breath requires your entire torso to relax and expand. Otherwise, the muscles around your lungs and diaphragm are keeping your lungs all squeezed up. Squeezed up lungs do not allow for a deep breath.

You’d be surprised at how tight your torso is, and how much it is constricting your ability to take a truly deep breath.

How tight is your torso?

Take this little test to see how tight your torso is. Find a stability ball and lean backward over it. Do you feel your muscles stretch when you try to relax over the ball? Can you let your arms hang over your head without too much discomfort?

Take a deep breath while you are hanging over the ball. Does that breath feel deeper than the ones you’ve taken while sitting or standing? Can you take that breath without discomfort?

If you felt discomfort while trying to relax over the ball, or when you tried to take a deep breath, you are not taking deep breaths while sitting or standing. Your “deep breathing” is not actually deep breathing at all. It is shallow breathing, and it will not help to calm you.

Make deep breathing work for you

Now that you know if your torso muscles are constricting your ability to breathe deeply, you can do something to fix your problem.

Use the stability ball to help you. Lie over it with your arms over your head at least once a day. Open your jaw and mouth, and breathe intensely for 3-5 minutes. Pull the air in and push it out. Focus on your exhale.

Warning. It’s going to feel terrible while you’re doing it. That’s because you’re not used to it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get, and the easier it will be. Just keep breathing. Pull the air in and push it out, no matter what you have to do to keep it up. Shake your hands, make some sounds, whatever. Just keep breathing.

Once your body has come back to equilibrium, you will be calm and feel great.

Want to know more, or know how? Give me a call. We’ll talk, and I’ll teach you how to do it.

Emotional Utopia, the book by Leah Benson, LMHC

Contact me now to set up your free 15-minute phone consultation.

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