Did you know that you can increase your anxiety and fear using those breathing techniques that are supposed to help you feel calm?
In this post, I will share 6 mistakes that people make that make them feel worse instead of better when trying to breathe to relieve PTSD symptoms.
The first mistake is not having your exhale longer than your inhale.
When we inhale, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated. Inhaling temporarily increases our heart rate. When we exhale, the parasympathetic nervous system gets activated, which means that we calm. If we want each breath to give us the best chance of reducing anxiety and helping us to deal with PTSD symptoms, we want to make the exhale longer than the inhale. The other thing is that if you have a pause at the top of the inhale, when you’ve already increased your heart rate and started to activate the sympathetic nervous system, holding your breath will make things worse. If you want to rest at the end of an in or an out-breath, the place to rest will be at the bottom of the exhale.
If you practice extending your exhale, it tones the vagus nerve. We all know that PTSD and Complex PTSD Symptoms, represent chronic stress. Breathing this way will lower the stress response over time. So try making your exhale longer than your inhale and just practice. Even if you just make it a little longer, mindful breathing like that will improve over time.
The second mistake is breathing too fast.
Although slowing down our breath takes a lot of practice, we want to slow down to the place where we’re breathing about 6 breaths per minute. That signals the nervous system to calm down and improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. The more oxygen we have in our brain, the more we’re able to think clearly when a PTSD trigger hits us. Research has also shown that the more slowly we breathe the more we’re able to reduce anxiety, depression, confusion, and reactivity. All symptoms that we understand that goes with complex PTSD.
The third mistake is holding the breath.
If we’ve had trauma for any period of time, we will have a habit of holding the breath and just taking time out at different times during the day. Check-in with your breath and make sure that you’re breathing. It’s a great step toward really getting control over your PTSD.
The fourth mistake is not breathing into the body.
You can check this video where I demonstrate how to belly breath. But that is just the beginning. The truth is when you breathe in, your diaphragm, which goes from your front to your back it crosses your body. When you breathe in, it goes down to allow for your lungs to fill up with air. And when you breathe out, it goes up. That expansion shouldn’t just be your belly, it should be your belly, your sides, and your back. Think of yourself as having like a big airbag, or breathing into your body includes all of those areas.
The fifth mistake is doing the three-part breath.
The instruction for this type of breathing usually guides you to focus on how the breath starts in the abdomen, it extends to the chest and goes to the upper shoulders.
This kind of breathing is unnatural and creates tension in the body. Breathing should be something that feels soothing.
The sixth mistake is breathing through the mouth.
Some people will say: “In through the nose and out through the mouth.” What tends to happen when we do that is, the out-breath is too fast. Breathing through the nose naturally slows the breath. I would encourage you to practice your breathing every day using the strategies that you can learn using my videos on YouTube.