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'E' is for Exhale. Friday May 16, 2014

When you pause to consider, without breath, we have no life: our nervous systems are driven by inhaling and exhaling. It thus follows that by changing our breathing we can influence millions of biochemical reactions in our body. These chemicals have a major impact on us physically and mentally, so, in my fifth blog using the letters of A.N.X.I.E.T.Y., I'm going to share some thoughts on Exhalation.

Many people who experience high levels of anxiety are known to breathe shallowly, through their chest. This disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary to be in a relaxed state. By slowing the breath and inhaling more deeply, we can bring down the heart rate and reduce the amount of adrenaline the body produces, which helps us calm down.

When you feel anxiety rise, here is a simple technique I've found useful. It's called The Measured Breath.

• Sit or stand, but make sure your hands are relaxed and your knees are soft
• Drop your shoulders and let your jaw relax
• Now breathe in slowly through your nose and count to four, keep your shoulders dowand allow your stomach to expand as you breathe in
• Hold the breath for a moment. Now release your breath slowly and smoothly as you count to seven
• Repeat for a couple of minutes

Another popular technique is Belly Breathing. It's especially effective when panic or anxiety attacks strike, but I recommend you try it when you feel only slightly stressed so you become familiar with it. Then, if you find anxiety rising or catch yourself hyperventilating, you can start belly breathing immediately and it will help you feel in control, fast.

• Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Make sure your shoulders are down and relaxed. Your stomach should expand, but your chest should rise very little. If you want, you can place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest so you can feel how you are breathing.
• Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep tongue and jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft whooshing as you exhale. Listen for that sound every time you practise and learn to value it as the sound of relaxation
• Repeat this for several minutes. Make your outgoing breath as long and smooth as you can. The exhalation is the key to relaxation, so give it your full attention

Now you've two tools for managing anxiety that you can take with you anywhere.

Sarah Rayner
A Moodscope member.

Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope are giving away a signed copy of Sarah Rayner's new novel, Another Night, Another Day which is available exclusively from Waterstones. Its focus is mental health, and it's a touching tale of people and their journey through tough times, told with humour and warmth. Today is another chance to win. Just email with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.

The Moodscope Team.

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Diana Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 9:22am

Hi Sarah - did you mean 'exhaling ' more deeply ( in the second paragraph of your,
today's wise counsel ? ) You put " inhaling " more deeply...By the way this is
good stuff in my opinion, and I'm in my 'dotage ' so should know ! ! !

Anonymous Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 9:46am

Good advice Sarah - thanks. I find measured breathing works, I hold for a count of eight before exhaling and also imagine my anxieties flowing out of my body when I exhale.

Anonymous Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 10:11am

I find it hard to even remember about breathing when I'm in the middle of a supermarket. The only thoughts are "dump trolley and shopoing and run ??" Or I get faster and faster get thru checkout. Get to car and then cry.
Mental beating myself up for being so pathetic. Its only a supermarket right?????
Thanks sarah for series of posts.

Anonymous Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 12:10pm

It's not remotely pathetic to find supermarkets overwhelming...they ARE!! I didn't actually understand why I found them daunting until one of my children had a problem with it. When I looked at it closely and broke it down it was easy to see. They have no windows, they are noisy, they are filled with faked light, every sense in our body is on high alert, the people, oh the people!!! I could write chapters on the difficulties and the survival techniques. Do NOT think you are pathetic please. In my humble opinion, those of us who struggle with mood, are highly sensitive which makes a supermarket torturous. My shortest advice is to make a bubble around yourself. Its made of very strong cling film and its beautiful, just like being a child and wishing you could stand inside the bubble you you can! You are in. Everything else is out. You can see it all and it can't get in. The sounds are slightly diffused, the people are too busy but inside your bubble you are calmly observing them. It's safe in your bubble and you are free to witness the goings on as if it was a film. Now, your breath. Allow it. A breath in and a longer breath out. It is the sound to hear. Take a list and get out quicker. Nasty places! You are not alone! Love from the room above the garage.

Anonymous Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 12:53pm

Thanks for kind reply. Imaging I'm inside a bubble sounds like a plan.
Thanks also for understanding xx

Silvia A Fri, May 16th 2014 @ 5:53pm

Julie, I also dislike supermarkets, its odour, its ugliness. However where I live there are few that are fine and beautiful. I do buy so few things in a Supermrket and if I have option I don't even go there. Instead, I go to a small shop, such a cozy one that sells organic food and this is my "supermarket". I go there on a weekly basis.

Anonymous - I will pay more attention to " every sense in our body " in shops.

Anonymous Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 9:12am

You might also go to the supermarket and just practice breathing there a few times, don't go to shop, take a trolley or basket round but don't put anything in it just get in and focus on breathing, it might help you become more comfortable in the environment?

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