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Harnessing The Breath

I have been finding more commonly recently in my coaching practise a theme of people not knowing how to deal with their emotions and not wanting to look at what is going on inside of them. When I work with people who do not want to dive deep into what is going on inside them, I can usually put it down to, they simply do not have a coping strategy for dealing with what is coming up. Sometimes we feel like we are going to need a big hoorah of emotional expression, but it doesn’t have to be the big show if you can work it in with a new strategy.


The coping strategy I encourage people to use when it comes to facing any kind of emotion is, the breath. It is natural, it is free and if used proactively, it is immensely powerful. There are a number of different breathing techniques and a quick google search will find you an abundance of methods. I would like to teach you one that is always effective for anyone I have used it with. It is called box breathing.


When you feel something coming to the surface; anger, frustration, sadness, fear, excitement, and you want to regulate that emotion, so it is more evenly spread out, use box breathing. All you need to do is breath in for six seconds, hold for six seconds and breath out for six seconds, repeat. When you are beginning you may need to do it for 2-7 minutes before you feel it really take effect. As you practise, it works more quickly and you feel its effects within seconds.


This breathing techniques helps to reset your autonomic nervous system (ANS). Your ANS is responsible for your fight-flight response, so it works in calming down your fear response to bring you back to neutral. This breathing technique can be effective for working with anxiety, it will help calm your system down.


What I encourage you to do is locate in your body where you are feeling your emotion, then focus your energy there. As you start to use the box breathing, you picture a goldarn light flowing from where to emotion was to go up and down your spinal cord. This is using visual imagery to get the energy of that emotion to start shifting and reduce the intensity of it.


You are can change the amount of time you do for each breath, some people who do not have a large breath capacity work better with 4-4-4 instead of 6-6-6, if you have quite a large breath capacity then you can even bring it up to 10-10-10. It is whatever is comfortable for you and makes you feel most relaxed. Start to make it a habit of anytime you feel yourself getting emotional or stressed, incorporate the box breathing. The purpose of making it a habit is that eventually it will become automatic and you will find yourself coming back to your breath instinctively to help calm down.


So, this week I will ask you, what are emotion you have been avoiding? Where have you felt unequipped to pay attention to what you are feeling? Can you start to incorporate this breathing technique to help you start to make some shifts for yourself? As always, start slow and start where feels easiest, then you build yourself up to work with what feels more complicated.

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