Overwhelm. That's something I've been hearing about a lot lately. Sometimes getting hit by hard times causes feelings of overwhelm. Juggling a lot of obligations, responsibilities and even goals is another way that brings them on. These types of situations are common, so it’s useful to have a ready way to beat down feelings of overwhelm. Easy breathing techniques are a great way to calm down and reset, fast.
These techniques are a form of "mindfulness." Mindfulness seems to be everywhere these days. I met with people who have been discouraged about mindfulness because they don't think they can clear their minds of thoughts. Fortunately, mindfulness does not have to be long periods of meditation built up over time. The perceived need to do this can make the whole mindfulness thing seem like too much trouble. Fortunately, breathing techniques are easy and can be done just about any where, any time. And, they're excellent at beating overwhelm.
A goal of mindfulness is to very "present" focused. This just puts your awareness on what is actually happening; not on anything that happened in the past, and not on any of the many possible scenarios or filling in the blanks that are minds are so good at doing. Most overwhelm and stress come from exaggerated thinking or thinking about things that aren't happening and most likely will never happen. Even though these thoughts feel very real and super important, they can get you too amped up and get in the way of what it is you're trying to do.
When you are alert and aware to what is happening in the moment you can at your best. Let's say you're playing a game of tennis. You don't want to be thinking about 10 minutes ago when you missed the ball. You don't want to think about what if your serve goes over the fence. You'll play the best tennis if you keep aware of where the ball is, what your opponent is doing and what you are doing. Any other preoccupation can just get you a "love" score. In this case, love is not what you want!
So, mindful breathing is just as it says. It's just noticing your breath. By being aware of it, you can manage it, by deepening it and slowing it. This works in at least two ways. It keeps your attention alert and aware so that you are sharp. Also, rather than just leaving your breathing on automatic pilot, you calm your nervous system down. I think of mindful breathing as your conscious part of your mind telling the subconscious part of your mind "I see what's happening. I got this."
You can add to it, too. Notice what you don't normally pay attention to, such as the air is cooler as you breath in and warmer as you breath out. Some people like to add mantras, like "peace" as they breath in, and something like "hurt" as they exhale. Some use visualization or counting. For example "square breathing" is counting to 4 while breathing in, holding the breath for a count of 4, exhaling for 4 and keeping the lungs empty for 4.
So, anytime you want to feel less overwhelmed, pay attention to your breath. If you incorporate mindful breathing here and there throughout your day, it'll become the new automatic.