Breathe, Introvert. Breathe...
A highly effective Navy SEAL relaxation technique levelled up for introverts.
It's no secret that us introverts can be a highly-strung bunch. Waiting your turn to 'tell everyone a little bit about yourself' in a seminar, an unexpected drop-in, or even just the phone ringing can cause our stress levels to rise to artery-popping levels. One of the quickest, most effective ways to calm down an anxious mind is through taking back control of your breath.
When we get stressed our breathing tends to become shallow and fast. What we want is to breathe deep and slow. The first step is to only inhale and exhale through your nose - a little hard with a winter cold, I know, but do your best. Next you need to pay attention to your breathing technique and cultivate the habit of diaphragmatic breathing AKA belly breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation for most relaxation, mindfulness and meditation techniques. It comes with a plethora of benefits including decreased stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, elevated mood, and reduced feelings of melancholy.
My favourite way of introducing diaphragmatic breathing to personal training clients (especially introverts) is to use the technique as a way of gently returning the body to rest after a workout. I get them to lie on their backs with their knees bent at 90 degrees, lower legs supported on a bench or box. From here they place their hands on their lower abdomen with their fingertips touching over the belly button. I then ask them to breath deeply from the belly up toward the chest. If they are doing it correctly their fingertips will part and rejoin on each breath.
A popular (and particularly effective) form of diaphragmatic breathing developed the Navy SEALS is called "box breathing". It works by creating the ideal balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, which promotes relaxation within minutes.
While you are not likely to be called upon to remain calm in the face of enemy fire, you can use box breathing to calm yourself down in moments of physical or emotional stress. Here's how to do it:
Empty the air out of your lungs to a count of four
Hold your breath for a count of four
Inhale deeply to a count of four
Again hold your breath for a further count of four
Four counts of four constitutes a box. Continue with the sequence until your breathing has returned to normal and you feel calm and in control.
It works well for people who are also good at calming their internal chatter. I don't need to tell you there aren't many introverts in this category who haven't put in a great deal of effort to hone this skill. Here is a hack to save you (literal) headaches: Use your VAK learning/information processing style to help keep your mind focused on your breathing.
If you aren't familiar with the acronym VAK, here's what the letters stand for..
While we obviously use all of these modalities to learn and process information, you will likely have a dominant style. If you are unsure, try each of the different strategies below and see which one works best for you.
picture the numbers 1...2...3...4 in your mind's eye
say the numbers in your head
count the numbers on your fingers or tap along to the count
Employing any one of these methods (or even a combination if that works best for you) will radically improve your ability to focus on your breathing and reap the full benefits of box breathing. Namaste🧘