Take a Deep Breath
Feeling anxious, angry, or stressed out? Folks often suggest trying to "take a deep breath" to relax. Deep breathing is great, but what does one do with their thoughts while taking deep breaths? Continuing to ruminate about what could go wrong, the unfairness of a situation, or how frustrating it is to not just feel better already, can bring intensified emotions instead of relief.
One way to avoid this, which is simple but requires practice, is to focus on the sensory experience of breathing. Take slow, deep breaths. Notice the feeling of air passing through the mouth or nose, the sound of each breath, and the feeling of the chest expanding and contracting.
Focusing on a single aspect of what is happening right here in this very moment (like breathing) can make worries about the past or future seem smaller. With any luck, this will quiet distressful thoughts, facilitating purposeful reflection, decision-making, and self-care, or simply helping us to move on with the day and leaving worries for a more convenient time. Breathing is helpful on its own (I breathe all the time! :P ), but using deep breathing with intention, as a tool to regain focus on the present moment, can amplify its effectiveness for relieving emotional overwhelm.