Sunday, January 27, 2008

Square breathing

One of the ways to calm yourself when things seem scary is to understand that our bodies are machines that were designed when our brains were smaller and our reflexes had to be quicker. Our lives are testimony to those of our ancestors who possessed quick reflexes; slower folk didn’t live long enough to pass their genes along. Breathing is the key to calmness. The fight or flight response — our age-old response to real or imagined threat — depends on delivering oxygen quickly and efficiently to muscles that need to be ready for action. During this adrenaline rush, your heart rate increases, the passageways to your lungs streamline, your blood vessels redirect blood supply, and you begin to sweat. Real or perceived danger (anxiety) throws the body into overdrive, literally. Calming the breathing slows everything down.
Ordinarily, we parallel breath, in and out. To enter into a more relaxed state, practice square breathing, which is inhaling to the count of four, holding to the count of four, exhaling to the count of four, and holding for four. With practice, you can increase the intervals and slow things down even more. Not only is square breathing good for confidence building, but it’s also good for relaxation, talking to the boss about a raise, preparing for a speech, and — ta-da! — going out on a date.

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