Breathing is a function of life we rarely think about and comes to us as second nature. However, focused breathing can have profound effects on your ability to relax, regulate your emotions, reduce anxiety, and distract your mind from potential negative thoughts. Every individual is different, however using some of these simple breathing exercises can help you benefit from deep mindful breathing in stressful situations.
You can implement this exercise while standing or sitting, before a competition, in the classroom, or at home. The great thing about relaxation breathing is that it is a tool which you can use anywhere and anytime to help manage stress and emotion.
Another useful breathing strategy is called the Double Exhale.. Follow the steps of the Relaxation Breathing exercise, but before repeating it, do a second exhale to push out as much air as possible. This will make room for a fuller inhale the next time. You can also think of it as pushing out more of that negative unwanted emotion which may still be in our system.
Having trouble sleeping, need a little "me time", or feel your body is worn out by all the demands on it, both physically and mentally? Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can help relax tired and stressed bodies and minds and prepare you for a good night of sleep.
This tool can be used when dealing with anxiety, stress, sleep difficulties, depression, and overall well being. Learning how to relax is a skill which can be used in any situation. Just as it takes time and practice to learn skills for your sport, PMR takes time and practice, but the benefits can be exponentially rewarding. This activity is most effective when you can carve out 15 to 30 minutes of time with minimal distractions. Bedtime can be ideal, but there are other times when it can be effective and it can be done both lying down and seated.
There are many apps on your phone, which can be used to guide you through a full relaxation, for example: Rest & Relax Guided Meditations. Below is also a guide to understanding and conducting your own progressive muscle relaxation.
In athletics, visualizing an outcome you desire can be very powerful. Many individuals think visualization is a tool only used for sport. While it is beneficial in the athletic arena, it can be utilized in many different areas of life. Visualization has the ability to activate your creative subconscious and help in working towards your goals. Visualization can be done in many environments and time frames.
Another way to de-stress and relax is to visualize yourself in a peaceful, comfortable, inviting place. Visualization can be done in many environments and time frames.
Many times anxiety and stress levels can dramatically increase when there are major decisions to be made like what major to declare, whether to continue with sport or not, transferring, internships, and a multitude of other decisions that may arise. Thinking things through can certainly be important, but we can also get lost in the thoughts. Doing a Cost/Benefit Analysis or a Pros and Cons List can help clarify the decision options. These two strategies may also help to avoid making decisions simply based on emotion.
Use old-fashioned paper and pen or your laptop to do this exercise.