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Breathing for calm

LIfe is difficult and unpredictable, so there are unlimited situations that could

trigger strong emotions and overwhelm us.

When this happens the best thing to do is a) notice what’s happening (I’m feeling overwhelmed) and b) find a way to calm yourself, before you either numb yourself, or unhelpful thoughts take over, leading to negative consequences (self hatred, impulsive decisions etc). We’ve all been there. 

The most accessible way to calm yourself in such situations that I have found is ‘controlled breathing’. 

Controlled breathing is a grounding skill that can be learnt with a little practice, that utilises your natural biology to rebalance your nervous system. 

A 4-5-6 breath is one example - here’s how to do it:


- Breath in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds

- Pause and hold your breath for 5 seconds. 

- Breath out slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds

- Repeat for a minute or two, take it gently and be patient with yourself.

Why does it work? A longer 'out-breath' than 'in-breath' coupled with a pause, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, releases stress hormones from your bloodstream and allows more oxygen to your brain. Enabling clearer, more compassionate and rational thought to return to your present. 


If symptoms persist, then a more sophisticated approach may be required to process any old emotions that may be being triggered by current events. The toolkit here provides additional insights and techniques for those looking to ease their current or historical distress, but unsure about seeking support at this time.


If you would like to discuss support at a later stage you can get in touch with me at

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