At Headspace Guildford we often help children and young people manage something which is distressing them – often things like worries or coping with feelings or sensations which are difficult. We work to give young people strategies that help them cope with this. One of the best strategies is also the most accessible to all of us – just breathing.
Now, we all breathe all the time so this should be easy, right? Actually, learning to use your breath to calm down or help you deal with something difficult is a skill that you have to learn and practice over time. A skill like learning to play football or learning to play a musical instrument. When we learn something we are helping our brain make a new pathway and when we practice we strengthen this pathway. It’s the same with practising goal kicks, learning to speak French or practising deep, slow breath to help get through a lesson/meeting when you’re struggling.
So often, people try it once or twice and then say ‘this breathing thing doesn’t work for me’. But that would be the same as going 10 tin bowling and giving up after two terrible bowls (which for me would mean I would give up every time). Recently I went bowling with a group of 7 other people and started with at least 4 bowls where I knocked down zero pins. But at the end I got a spare and then a strike and ended up winning the game (now granted I was playing against children so that’s not a big achievement, but you get the point!) It’s just the same with breathing (or with anything else for that matter). We generally aren’t good at things with no practice. And learning to breathe to calm yourself down is a skill.
So, take a deep breath. Then another. Then another. Focus on your breathing (that just means pay lots of attention to it). Will you get distracted? Of course you will, that’s a normal part of the process. But every time your mind drifts off (…to all the other things you have to do, to what happened today, what you’re going to do later, what you’re feeling right now…) just notice you’ve drifted and bring your attention back to your breath. Try it for one minute and then two and then three. Do it in the shower, in the car, in a queue, in bed, in front of the TV, whilst watching you tube, whilst working. The more you practice the more you’ll find you can use it when things get difficult. Just keep breathing and you will make it through.