All the time when we have stress in our lives, we are told to breathe. Take a deep breath people say when they can see our anxiety. Or, just breathe. When my kids are in a hurry to tell me something, when they are agitated and angry I tell them to take a breath and then start their story from the beginning. It’s a reset in a way, a clearing of the head, and it’s very powerful.
Breathing techniques are used in everything from labor to stress management to yoga. While I don’t know very much about these breathing techniques, I have relied over the years on some very good advice from a therapist I saw when I was grappling with my divorce. It’s a trick I’ve found extremely useful. She called it Smoke Out, Light In, but in my head I think of it as Dark to Light breathing. When you are very stressed or crippled by negative thoughts, try this:
- Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as is comfortable. Let it out slowly and imagine that the energy and bad stuff leaving your body is black smoke. Let all the black smoke out, picturing it dissipating into the air, leaving you for good.
- Take another breath and again hold it. Then let it out and this time imagine the smoke is lighter, maybe dark grey.
- Then another deep breath, imagining you are inhaling light and energy. Then exhale. This the smoke leaving you now is pale grey.
- The next breath you exhale, imagine it is white.
- Take a final deep breath, hold it, then exhale the clear air, visualizing it as good pure energy.
In this way, you are exhaling the bad thoughts, the yucky energy and the anxiety and replacing it with clear air to fortify you with energy and calm. You can use this breathing technique anytime. You don’t have to use it when you are in crisis mode or in times of great stress. You can use it when you are agitated by traffic, when you feel your shoulders bunch up as you stand in line at the DMV, when you are about to walk into a stressful meeting, when your kids are fighting with each other…anytime. I promise it will help.