A 5 Minute Technique to Ease Emotional Overload
Updated: Apr 10
Published by Elephant Journal
For years I have sat with clients experiencing strong emotions: anxiety, fear, anger, grief.
As a psychotherapist, I have learned many treatment methods in educational and professional settings, but what has been most helpful to my clients in modulating emotion is a deep breathing technique. Practicing for just five minutes during session when a client is emotionally dysregulated can temper the severity of their experience and increase access to root causes.
My awareness of yogic breathing started when I was a young therapist at a yoga class after an intense work week. At the start, I felt like a giant head disconnected from my body, but after the class, I was relaxed and could feel my toes. I developed a love for yoga and ended up completing a Hatha yoga certification program. I was fortunate the courses also included pranayama, ancient techniques for improving and controlling the breath. Just as the yogic postures (asanas) relaxed my body, deep breathing became natural for me to use during moments of stress, and I introduced it with clients in my professional practice. My individual clients found this breathing helpful so I shared it in the groups I led for anxiety. Over time, I refined the technique and named it “conscious breathing.”
Group participants were eager to practice conscious breathing at our meetings, and I created a guide and diagram for them to use at home. Participants felt empowered regulating emotions with these tools on their own and reported positive results.
Find a quiet comfortable place, sit down...
Gently close your eyes
Visualize a circle cut in two —a top half and a bottom half
The top half of the circle is the inhale; the bottom half of the circle is the exhale
Inhale a deep breath through your nose
Exhale a deep breath through your mouth
Clockwise around the circle:
Inhaling through the nose, count silently, one…two…three…
Exhaling through mouth, count silently, one…two…three… After completing seven full circles, you may be aware that your inhalations and exhalations are equal...totally balanced.
You are breathing with mindfulness.
Use Conscious Breathing When you are anxious or panicked
If you can’t sleep or have recurring thoughts
Before a meeting or performance
On a turbulent plane
Before you eat, spend, or drink too much
During a traumatic memory or nightmare
When commuting to relax/re-calibrate To “tune in” and get clear about an issue
Conscious breathing may not change your circumstances and is not a substitute for healing therapies, but it can ease symptoms and is so simple. Try it for yourself!