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Slow Down Your Breathing to Feel More in Control

There are numerous benefits of slowing down your mind.  When we slow down we feel more grounded and regain a sense of control in stressful situations.  One way to slow down under pressure is to take a few moments and intentionally slow down our breathing.  Using breath to calm the mind is a uniquely valuable tool, because we always have our breath available to us.  There is no need for additional props, scheduling, or spending money on a class.

Breathing to slow down the mind can provide immediate results. Other self-care practices are not as readily available, and show results over time. Everyone knows regular exercise and a balanced routine are good for reducing stress, but they require consistency and dedication to integrate into our busy lives. We can practice breathing any time, any place.

Why should I slow down my breathing? 

Physical Benefits: When we stop and take a few seconds to focus on our breathing, we are intentionally calming down and slowing our nervous system.  This slows brain activity and heart rate, allowing blood and oxygen to flow more naturally through our bodies.  Deep breathing can also reduce Cortisol levels, the “stress hormone” that is released in our brains whenever we are under pressure or feeling anxious.  This sensation promotes relaxation and a sense of wellbeing that helps us feel more in control and less rushed.

Social Benefits: Slowing down by taking a few breaths is an opportunity to pause before responding when faced with an urgent decision.  Breathing creates space to form a thoughtful response rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind.  When we have an opportunity to check in with ourselves and take time to think about our response, we gain confidence and clarity.

How to slow down my breathing? 

 To begin practicing deep breathing, if possible, go to a place where you feel comfortable and can stabilize your body.  This can be done in a bathroom, on the subway, in an empty room at work, or sitting on a park bench.  By setting yourself up physically and ensuring at least one minute without interruption, you will focus more on breathing.

Start by taking at least 5-10 consecutive, slow, deep breaths.  Breathe to expand your belly, not your chest. Imagine, the more drawn out the breath is, the more you are slowing down.  Aim for a deliberate count of 4 as you inhale and a count of 5 as you exhale. Breathing should be slow, calm, and controlled.  Try following along with this image if it helps you keep an even pace.

Slowing down by controlling the breath is widely practiced in yoga, meditation, anger management, and in other healing practices. As we slow down and connect with our bodies, it can increase compassion for ourselves and others.  It also can decrease racing thoughts, and promote a sense of empowerment as we regain control of our bodies and minds.

 When do you see yourself using this breathing technique?

Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist

Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist

Psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC
Offers individual and couples counseling in NYC. She specializes in LGBTQ, Eating Disorders, and Trauma.
Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist

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5 replies
  1. Zach
    Zach says:

    This is such a valuable tool, Cate! When we are activated, sometimes it’s best to take a deep breath and check in with ourselves before we act on our anxiety. Great blog!

  2. Kimia
    Kimia says:

    Amazing blog Cate! it’s so important to learn and know that by just slowing down our breathing we can feel less stressed out.

  3. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    I appreciate the reminder of the social benefit of slowing down my breathing. It’s a good reminder to be more present, slow down and respond thoughtfully.

  4. Richard Cino
    Richard Cino says:

    Thanks Cate for this thoughtful and clear outline of incorporating our breath in all its benefits. I feel these are easy to apply when stressed!


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