Breathing Exercises to Calm Your BFRBs

We rarely pay attention to how we breathe because it happens automatically without much thought. However, making breathing exercises conscious and integrating them into our everyday lives has many advantages. 

Deep breaths can help resist the BFRB urge until this feeling passes. It’s like a little mental reset to calm down and regain focus.

I pick and bite the most when I’m anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, or worried. When I feel this way, my breath becomes shallow, and I even subconsciously hold my breath or breathe irregularly. Not breathing properly intensifies my negative feelings and thus my BFRBs. 

If I catch myself biting or picking nervously – if possible – I remove myself from the situation and sit with my back straight or even lie down. I set the timer for five minutes and do a breathing exercise. 

After two or three minutes, I feel how my racing mind relaxes. I then have a clear head to see why and what made me so anxious. Then I can focus on the next steps. 

It doesn’t always have to be five minutes. Taking a few deep breaths while feeling tense could go a long way already. It’s a quick check-in with your thoughts and feelings. It helps to understand you and your BFRBs better. 

The next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, try one of these breathing exercises:

Box breathing: A very simple breathing exercise is box breathing. I like to imagine circling a square while doing this exercise.

  1. Inhale for a count of four
  2. Hold your breath for a count of four
  3. Exhale for a count of four
  4. Hold your breath for four
  5. Continue the pattern

4-7-8 Breathing: The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is also called the relaxing breath because it helps to calm down the nervous system. While doing this exercise I focus on counting and my body instead of my thoughts.

  1. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  4. Repeat the pattern

Affirmation breathing: This is one of my favorite breathing exercises when my mind is racing with negative self-talk. 

  1. Inhale and say a mental positive thought or focus word
  2. Exhale a mental negative thought or focus word
  3. Repeat the pattern. For example, inhale “I am capable”, exhale self-doubt or inhale “calmness”, exhale “stress”

Sometimes it can be difficult to follow through with breathing exercises on your own. If you need some guidance, try using a breathing or meditation app. Click here to see a list of breathing or meditation apps.

Extra Tip:

Put one hand on your heart and the other one on your belly. Feel your chest and stomach expand when you take a deep breath. That way you can divert the focus from the thoughts to the body. Alternatively, hold your hand in the “Adi Mudra” position to keep your hands still.

Happy calm breathing, Anja

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