Managing how you feel - tip #3

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This is the third article in my series about Managing How You Feel. 

In this series I present a number of tools and techniques that you can use to begin to engage differently with your emotional state. Feelings are messages, letting us know about something our system wants us to pay attention to. In this way, symptoms are trying to help, its just their approach is outdated and for your needs now, misguided.

Our emotional state is influenced by three things:

-  the way we unconsciously filter information

-  the way we represent our experience to ourselves internally

-  our physiology

Your body regenerates your emotional state around about every 90 seconds.  This means you have many, many opportunities to shift what you are experiencing.  This series gives you ways to make space for, and contain, the way you feel, so that the message the feeling wants to convey can be received, and the intensity of the experience can ebb away. Not every tip will fit for everyone, the trick is experimenting, finding things that resonate for you, and tweaking them to make them your own.

Tip #3 - Use your breathing

Building on last week's tip, movement, today I'm focusing on another physiological technique, breathing.  

There are many, many different breathing techniques out there, from simple to incredibly complex.  When you are feeling emotional or overwhelmed, I recommend using simple approaches, lets face it, its hard to remember something complicated when you can't access your thinking very well.

Step one is to notice how you are breathing.  If you are upset you may be gasping, or breathing rapidly, taking shallow breaths at the top of your chest.  Take a moment to just observe, and be aware of how you are breathing.

Step two is to begin to adjust your breathing.  Not all at once, nothing too drastic. just gently increasing the length of your out-breath.  As you do this, you might imagine you are breathing out your emotion with each breath, letting it out of your body as you exhale.

Step three is to allow your breathing to slow and deepen, at your own pace.  You don't want to feel you are controlling your breathing, so much as allowing it to get slower, allowing it to deepen, making space for more air.  See if you can fill up your tummy as you breathe in, and have your tummy contract as you breathe out. It can help to have your out-breath be longer than your in-breath, but the most important thing is attuning to yourself and breathing the way that feels most calming to you in the moment.

Breathing is something you do every moment of every day, from birth until death.  It's a profoundly important movement, energising the body with oxygen and letting out carbon dioxide and other waste gases.  We can use the breath as a metaphor, taking care of what we allow in to ourselves, and letting go of what we no longer need.  

The breath has rhythm, it can be soothing to just notice it coming in and going out, all on its own, without our conscious control.  I wonder what else your body could just take care of for you if you let it?

Go to the profile of Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

I am here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to clients based in Durham. I am UKCP Accredited and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists locally. I have worked in private practice, the NHS, and in charitable organisations, with a wide range of clients and conditions.

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