How to breathe to calm yourself when you’re stressed

How to breathe to calm yourself when you’re stressed

Do you kind of forget how to breathe to calm yourself when you’re feeling stressed? You don’t really realise it until maybe someone points it out. Or you finally get to a place of calm and think, ‘Boy, I wasn’t feeling that great!’

It’s understandable. You can get so wrapped up in the issue your focus is entirely on that. I’ve done it.

When I started studying coaching and other psychological modalities, breathing was often mentioned. Eventually (not immediately), I realised I rarely focused on my breath!

I might have been aware I was breathing differently when stressed, yet I did nothing to change it. But I also wasn’t aware of how I was breathing in my day-to-day life during times when I wasn’t stressed.

Not only was I not using a valuable tool at my disposal to manage the impact of stress, I took my ability to breathe completely for granted. So in this post I want to share why knowing how we breathe is important and a simple technique you can use to restore calm when you feel stressed.

Picture of a person feeling stressed and forgetting to breathe. The person is thinking, "This issue is so hard! I'll never get it sorted!" It's important when you're feeling stressed and anxiety to remember how to breathe to calm yourself.

What about you?

Do you know how to breathe to calm yourself?

As a way to self-regulate how you’re feeling. Self-regulation is an important life skill. It’s about you recognising and using your personal power, which you can in many different ways. Breathing is one of them. And exercising your personal power helps to feed your confidence in yourself.

There is a picture of a virtuous cycle saying: Ability to self-regulate with an arrow pointing to Recognising and using your personal power then another arrow pointing to Feeds you confidence. When we self-regulate, we are using our personal power and that helps increase our confidence. A person is looking at this, smiling and saying, "I'll try deep breathing!" Being able to self-regulate how you feel is a key life skill. Learning how to breathe to calm yourself will help you do that.

And do you know where you breathe from when you’re not stressed?

Stop for a minute and notice. Do this a few times throughout the day.

Are you breathing from high up in your chest? Maybe near the throat? Or lower down around your diaphragm? Or maybe even lower?

What is your style of breathing like?

Short quick gasps for air? A slow, deep intake of breath? Something in between? Or do you find yourself holding your breath a lot?

Breathing is fundamental to living and your life

Yet many of us are not very intimate with how we breathe. Notice how you breathe and where you’re breathing from when you’re working, cooking, preparing for bed, exercising, reading, doing household chores, errands, looking after your kids or grandchildren, doing something you really enjoy doing, etc.

Being aware of how you breathe can help you identify when you’re feeling stressed

When you are feeling stressed and anxiety, your breath can be a go-to tool to help you restore a sense of calm.

So here’s an easy-to-use breathing technique to help you do that.

Being aware of how you breathe can help you identify when you’re feeling stressed. Are you aware of how you breathe? Click here to learn more #breathing #stress #wellness Click To Tweet

How to breathe to calm yourself using the 4-6 technique

You use this technique in the moment when you’re feeling stressed.

Breathe in for a count of 4.

Exhale for a count of 6.

Repeat until you feel calm. Then keep doing it AND smile to yourself.

This technique helps to regulate your nervous system.

And it’s a great technique as no one can really see you do it.

A person is standing looking calm and practicing a breathing technique. They are saying, "Inhale for 4 seconds. Exhale for 6 seconds." You can regulate your nervous system by using the 4-6 breathing technique.

What’s it like for you?

Are you aware of where you typically breathe from – high up in your chest, from your diaphragm, from your belly? Have a go at breathing using the 4-6 technique. How did you feel afterwards? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are struggling with a challenging health issue or caring for someone who is, and would like support to get unstuck and on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to conquer overwhelm with ease

How to conquer overwhelm with ease

At times, it can feel like you can’t quite conquer overwhelm when you’re living with a challenging health issue. Particularly when you may be in the early stages of living with it. Or some kind of change happens with your health or life that throws your previous normality out the window.

The overwhelm can feel like a constant in your life. It’s not surprising as you can be dealing with a lot of change, you may not be sure how best to deal with it, and you don’t know what the future holds. So yeah, overwhelm can easily happen.

Pic of a being taking a woman's life which is in the form of a cloud it is holding with 'Your Lovely Life' written in it and the being is saying, "Take these. You won't need your previous life so I will toss that." The being is standing near a window. The being is handing two clouds to the woman with overwhelm & anxiety and chronic illness written on them. She is holding them but saying, "I don't want these. I want my life back." Dealing with a challenging health issue can feel like you're exchanging your life for overwhelm. And all you want to do is conquer overwhelm to get your life back.

So how do you conquer overwhelm?

Without it being incredibly difficult?

Here are three steps you can take to conquer overwhelm with ease

It will be a learning process. And you may not get it right from the start. In fact, don’t aim to get it 100% right as that can fuel the overwhelm.

Learning how to conquer #overwhelm is a learning process. And you may not get it right from the start. In fact, don’t aim to get it 100% right as that can fuel the overwhelm. #stress #anxiety Click To Tweet

First, show some compassion to yourself

And tell yourself:

“It’s ok. I’ll get there. Everything is figure-out-able.”

When you show compassion to and reassure yourself, you calm your nervous system. When you feel calm, it’s easier for you to take effective action to help yourself.

This pic is an original quote by Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness®. It says: Everything is figure-out-able. This is a great way to reassure yourself that you will figure things out eventually and so conquer overwhelm.

Second, get curious about your experience of overwhelm

Get to know what it’s like for you when you feel overwhelmed.

What sensations do you feel in your body and where?

What do you do when you experience overwhelm? Do you deny it and try to get on with life as normal? Do you hide away? Get cranky? Cry a lot? Get angry? Experience lots of anxiety? Something else?

Whatever is causing the overwhelm? How do you think about that issue? What are your thoughts?

Is it typically certain issues which trigger overwhelm?

When you are aware of how you experience overwhelm and what triggers it for you, you are in a much better position to take charge of the overwhelm much earlier.

When you are aware of how you experience #overwhelm and what triggers it for you, you are in a much better position to take charge of the overwhelm much earlier. #stress #anxiety Click To Tweet

When you feel overwhelmed by a problem, the problem feels bigger than you

You need to get bigger than the problem.

When you do that, you can see how big or small the problem really is and the different parts of the problem.

On the lefthand side of the picture, a woman is looking out of sorts and is laying on the ground as problems overwhelm her. On the righthand side of the picture she is much bigger and has broken down the overwhelm into all the problems that is contributing to it. She is saying, "Ok, now I can see everything more clearly. first, I need to sort my finances and car. Then I'll have more energy for the other stuff." The point is that by making yourself bigger than your problems, it can help you to step out of overwhelm and deal with the problems. This helps you to conquer overwhelm.

To get bigger than the problem and overwhelm, the third thing you can is write about the cause of it

There is no right or wrong way to write about the problem. It may be a simple bullet list of the issues you face. So it doesn’t have to take a long time.

You might write about the different parts of the problem. You may end up writing just how you’re thinking about everything as it occurs to you. Spelling and grammar do not matter.

When you write about the problem, it does two things:

  1. It takes the overwhelm out of your head and puts it on paper. You can let the overwhelm rest on the paper and not in your head or body.
  2. You create distance between yourself and the problem. That makes it easier to look at it and evaluate it more objectively.

You are then in a much better position to start dealing constructively with the problem.

So think of your pen as your sword in helping you conquer overwhelm.

The woman is sitting at a table and has been writing about the overwhelm she experiences. She is holding her pen up and saying, "For something so small, you are very powerful and effective!" The point is that your pen can be your sword in helping you conquer overwhelm.

What’s it like for you?

Have you used writing before to conquer overwhelm? If not, what do you think of writing as a tool to do that? What other approaches do you use to conquer overwhelm which you’ve found effective? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

The one thing you can do to regain control quickly

The one thing you can do to regain control quickly

When you don’t feel in control, all you want is something to help you regain control. But sometimes the solution doesn’t come quickly enough for your liking. Or it’s hard to sift through everything and determine what’s best for you because you may be feeling so much anxiety. Understandable.

You can end up not taking effective action as a result

And I don’t want that for you. I want you to take good enough action that has helps you get what you need and where you want to be. So I’ll share the one skill you already possess and how it can help you to regain control.

It requires you to notice how you’re thinking and speaking. Noticing is good because it’s the first step in regaining control. To help you do that, I share what you need to be on the look-out for. And I provide a four-step process you can follow to help you take back control.

Click on the video to watch. It’s 11 minutes long.

What’s it like for you?

What do you think of Rotter’s ‘Locus of Control’ model? Do you recognise yourself using passive language when you’re not feeling in control? What do you think about using active language to help you regain control quickly? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

You may also want to watch this video on how to determine which aspects of issues you are dealing with are in your control to manage and what is not and therefore you need to let go of. It’s a great complement to the video you just watched. (It’s 11 minutes.)

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to feel more in control

How to feel more in control

Many people want to feel more in control during these uncertain times. I’m hearing from people who talk about feeling-out-sorts or are waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. And the anxiety feels like just one more thing to overcome. Others are saying they are trying to control too much.

It can feel draining. I know, I too am waking up in the middle of the night and sometimes I struggle to get back to sleep. And yet what we feel at this time is a normal reaction to the unusual time we’re living in.

So I want to share with you the one model I keep coming back to which helps me to

  • Manage the impact of anxiety, stress and uncertainty effectively
  • Regain control in my life
  • Use my energy wisely

I have shared this model with so many clients and they always find this to be a game changer. I think you will too.

Feeling out of control due to all the stress, anxiety and uncertainty? Want to learn a great tool that will help you regain control? My clients call this the game changer! Click thru to watch the video #uncertainty #takecontrol… Click To Tweet

How to feel more in control

What will help you feel more in control? Stephen Covey’s Spheres of Control, Influence and Concern will! This comes from his book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He wrote the book in 1989 and the ideas and concepts are still very relevant. They transcend time because they are life skills. I highly recommend this book.

So click on the video, sit back and learn what you can do to feel more in control. It’s 11 minutes long.

What’s it like for you?

What do you think of Covey’s Spheres of Control, Influence and Concern? What action can you take to feel more in control? And what is in your sphere of concern you need to let go of? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to feel more in control

What is your relationship with uncertainty like?

Considering what your relationship with uncertainty is like has probably not featured as something to think about. Unless of course you’ve had to deal with a challenging health issue, whether your own or someone else’s. Or another significant life event that brought a high degree of the unknown into your life.

For many people when they have to deal with a lot of uncertainty, they can end up feeling out-of-sorts. Which is understandable. They take appropriate measures to deal with their out-of-sorts feelings, which is good. Or try to suppress them, which isn’t as good.

And it tends to stop there. The aim is to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings. Not a bad aim, don’t get me wrong. But there isn’t any further reflection on why the uncertainty happens and one’s relationship with it as a way to improve it.

What I want to do is provide some questions for you to reflect on what your relationship with uncertainty is like as the first step to improving it. Particularly as there is so much uncertainty about due to coronavirus and the lockdown. Much more than many of us are used to. Finding ways to deal effectively with uncertainty can enable you to live with more ease during uncertain times.

A woman is sitting on a chair. She is frowning, looking uncertain and asking herself the questions: "What am I to do? How can I feel better? Why do I feel this way? When will it stop? Who can help. I feel so out of control." Next to her is standing Uncertainty. It has its hand on the back of her chair and is saying, 'I'm your new friend.' This is what it can be like to live with uncertainty. What is your relationship with uncertainty like? Check out www.returntowellness.co.uk for advice on how to do that and keep your sanity particularly if you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown.

When uncertainty happens

Uncertainty occurs when situations and events happen and you don’t know how to deal with them or you think you don’t know how to deal with them (but you actually do know). There may also be a lot of additional unknowns, conflicting and/or unclear information, a lot of change happening quickly and no clear timeline on when the situation will end.

All this can lead to feeling out-of-sorts, anxiety and panic even. Which is often due to feeling out-of-control and powerless. We humans don’t like those feelings.

The coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of uncertainty in action.

What is your relationship with uncertainty like?

When you look at your relationship with uncertainty, it’s also helpful to look at your relationship to not knowing, change, dealing with ambiguity and fear. Because they fuel uncertainty. This is a big topic so I am going to only focus on dealing with not knowing and the fear that can result. I start with a pretty big question.

The picture shows that not knowing what to do (or thinking you don't know what to do), all the unknowns, dealing with unclear and conflicting info, lots of change and no clear timeline or end in sight all create uncertainty. And fear. A woman is standing looking at all this saying, 'I feel out of control and powerless.' This can make your relationship with uncertainty hard.

What’s it like for you when you don’t know something?

What I often see when clients, people, colleagues, and me don’t know something, we can rush to a solution. As I explained in this video, the anxiety around not knowing can fuel that rush to an answer or solution. But in that rush, we can miss the solution that would work really well for us. Because we don’t slow down and give space for the right solution to arise.

So the next question to consider is…

If you feel anxiety around not knowing, what is that about?

What is it about not knowing that produces anxiety?

Sometimes the anxiety around not knowing took root in childhood in response to how we saw the people present in our life deal with not knowing and their responses to us when we ourselves did not know. As a result, we may have absorbed helpful or unhelpful messages about not knowing.

A question to ask yourself is whether how you respond now to uncertainty and not knowing reminds you of how you responded as a child to situations where you didn’t know the answer and/or there was a lot of uncertainty. And does it remind you of how other people close to you responded to not knowing and uncertainty.

Some questions to help you explore your relationship with #uncertainty: What’s it like for you when you don’t know something? If you feel anxiety around not knowing, what is that about? #wellness Click To Tweet

Here’s an example using myself

Growing up, the message I absorbed what that it was not ok to not know the answer to a question you were asked or to not know how to do something you were told to do. Whether this was at home, in school or elsewhere. When I didn’t know the answer or know how to do something, people would make fun of me or, particularly if they were adults, tell me that I should know or get mad.

Not knowing became linked to feeling shame – I wasn’t enough for the people around me. So I developed in part an unhealthy relationship with not knowing. This part of me coped by developing a Please People driver (Hay, 2009) – ‘If I know the answer, I’ll please the people around me and they will love me.’

And yet, the curious part of me would wonder why couldn’t we just figure it out together if I/we didn’t know something? Thankfully, she stayed with me throughout childhood well into adulthood and is still with me today. This part of me is the one that says to clients in response to their dilemmas and issues: Everything is figure-out-able. Let’s figure this out together.

An approach of ‘everything is figure-out-able’ can help you deal with #uncertainty with more ease #wellness Click To Tweet

If you realise that your response to not knowing and uncertainty was learned from others in your young life or in response to what they said or did to you, that self-awareness can help you to choose a different response today.

Sometimes the not knowing breeds fear

This can be the case in respect to coronavirus. The fear of catching the virus and how one could be affected for example. And how a loved one who is elderly or has health issues is affected by the current situation and could be if they caught the virus. These are very real and legitimate concerns that can also feel scary. You can be afraid for your existence and that of your loved ones.

The length of time the not knowing goes on can also feed the fear. Here is what helped a client of mine in that situation.

One thing is certain about uncertainty

There will always be uncertainty.

This is an original quote by Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness®. It says: One thing is certain. There will always be uncertainty.

I don’t mean to be flippant in saying that. It’s a fact. And a paradox.

The client I said this to was dealing with ongoing uncertainty about the unpredictability of symptoms in relation to her chronic health condition. She didn’t know if symptoms would appear from one day to the next, how bad or not they would be and therefore how she would and could deal with it. She described as having ‘to be in it for the long haul’ and was understandably feeling upset as a result.

Acknowledging that the uncertainty would always be there helped this client. She said, ‘It puts it in a box.’

Acknowledging is powerful because when you name something – for example, that uncertainty will always be present – you make the unknown known to yourself. When you do that, it changes what felt like an unknown large thing that is everywhere to something that is easier to hold. That helps you to contain any fears you may hold around uncertainty more easily.

A woman is standing at a table. On the table is a large box. The woman is putting uncertainty into the box and saying, 'I'm going to put uncertainty into this box. I've got things to figure out and sort.' The point is that when we acknowledge uncertainty, it can make living with it easier. Our relationship with uncertainty is improved because we are no longer denying it.

A final thought about your relationship with uncertainty

When I did a masters in coaching psychology, an article I referenced in my dissertation mentioned: ‘Appraisals of illness uncertainty also influence how people evaluate and incorporate an illness into their lives (Babrow, 2007; Babrow & Matthias, 2009; Mishel, 1999; Mishel & Clayton, 2003).’

This came from the article ‘Patients’ and Partners’ Perspectives of Chronic Illness and Its Management by Checton et al (2012).

We can broaden that statement to uncertainties that appear in our lives beyond illness or injury: ‘Appraisals of pandemic uncertainty also influence how people evaluate and incorporate a pandemic into their lives.’

I am not saying you have to say yes to the pandemic, agree with it, or welcome it. It’s just about acknowledging that it is here, it’s having an impact and that impact may be positive in some ways to downright awful in others.

Incorporating the pandemic into your life is also about managing its impact, which won’t always be simple or easy, so you still retain some quality of life. There’s a focus on yeah, this isn’t fun or easy, it can be scary, AND there is still good in my life.

What’s it like for you?

How would you describe your relationship with uncertainty? To what degree does not knowing impact it? What ideas have you got from this article to help you in managing your relationship with uncertainty? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

References

Checton, M.G. PhD, Greene, K. PhD, Magsamen-Conrad, K. PhD, Venetis, M.K. PhD (2012) Patients’ and Partners’ Perspectives of Chronic Illness and Its Management, Families, Systems, & Health, Vol. 30, No. 2, 114–129.

Hay, J. (2009) Transactional Analysis for Trainers, 2nd edition. Hertford, UK: Sherwood Publishing.

How to manage stress and anxiety

How to manage stress and anxiety

We’re not often taught in life how to manage stress and anxiety. Yet it’s something many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis. At times it can feel like it gets into the driving seat of one or more parts of your life. It’s understandable, life happens like that.

Watch this video to learn one way of how to manage stress and anxiety you may be feeling.

You’ll learn what stress and anxiety are, why it happens and a simple exercise you can do to get back in the driving seat of your life. I also talk about why many of us are experiencing increased anxiety levels during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

The picture shows two people in a car. The license plate says 'self-care'. The woman in the passenger seat is saying, 'But I want to exercise and look after myself.' The person who is driving, which is anxiety, is saying, 'No you can't! You must do what I want! Now let me drive!' This picture demonstrates the impact of anxiety when it is in the driving seat of a part of your life. The anxiety can take over and drive your actions.

The exercise on how to manage stress and anxiety develops your heart, mind and soul fitness

It does that by raising your self-awareness. As you do the exercise, I would like you to do it with a hefty dose of self-compassion for yourself rather than harsh judgement.

This exercise is not meant as a means for you to judge yourself as doing something wrong, not being good enough or to be self-critical. It is meant to nourish your heart, mind and soul.

If you have a clinical diagnosis of anxiety, please read this

The exercise mentioned here can help. But if you think it might raise a lot of emotions which are incredibly unpleasant, overwhelming and you have little to no control over them, then I recommend you do the exercise with the support of a qualified practitioner who has experience of supporting people who experience anxiety. Particularly if you have never done such an exercise before.

Additional support when doing this exercise

You can also do the following whether or not you have a clinical diagnosis of anxiety.

1. Hold a favourite object which reminds you of the here and now. The purpose of this is to keep you anchored in the present time. So as you do the exercise, you know that ultimately you are in the here and now.

2. You can time bound the exercise and just do it for 1-2 minutes for a start. It’s ok to do the exercise in stages over a period of time rather than all in one go.

You are in charge of you

The exercise in this video can help you take healthy control of stress and anxiety, learn from it and be in charge of you.

In watching this video, you acknowledge that you take full responsibility for your emotional wellness and wellbeing, and any decisions you take as a result of watching it.

Picture of an original quote by Return To Wellness saying: You are the CEO of you. So you're in charge. This is very much the case when you want to manage your health issue successfully.

How to manage stress and anxiety so you can get back in the driving seat of your life

The video is 45 minutes long and I use slides to give a visual of what I’m saying. So grab a cuppa, sit back, relax and enjoy the video!

How to manage stress and anxiety so you can get back in the driving seat of your life

As we do physical fitness for our bodies, what about fitness for our hearts, minds and souls? They need nourishing exercise too. Here's one to help you manage any #stress and #anxiety you may be feeling #wellness… Click To Tweet

What’s it like for you?

What did you learn about how to manage stress and anxiety? Was there anything you knew already? What is the one thing you will do differently going forwards? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you would like support on learning how to manage stress and anxiety, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

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