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How perfecting your breathing technique will help you to feel calm

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Susan Devaney
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Rebecca Dennis, author and coach, shares her tips on how we can all breathe better – for our physical and mental health.      

With statistics from the Mental Health Foundation indicating there are at least 8.2 million cases of anxiety annually in the UK alone, you can never truly know what someone is going through behind closed doors – particularly as there is still such a taboo around the topic of mental health.

However, Fearne Cotton is keen to change that by opening up the dialogue around anxiety, panic attacks and mental health in general.

Which is why Cotton took to the stage at Stylist Live to interview Rebecca Dennis, author and coach, on how we can all breathe better to make ourselves feel calm.

And guess what? It’s really simple, and really effective.

“We don’t really think about how we breathe. It’s important that we learn how to breathe the way we did when we were babies,” advises Dennis.

“Most people today hover at low-level anxiety, but if we learn how to breathe better things will improve.

“If you take a long deep breath, you’ll be able to focus more and you’ll have more energy because when we get a tight chest it activates our ‘fight or flight’ mode.”

First thing’s first: learn how to teach yourself how to breathe from your belly. Naturally, we hold our bellies in so we forget about that part of our bodies. Failing to properly breath, can lead to us storing up our emotions which can often lead to moments when it all comes to a head. 

“The first time I had a panic attack I was on the motorway,” explains Cotton, referring to how her anxiety got the better of her. “I became very hot then I couldn’t focus properly. Everything was spinning out of control. Then I started to hyperventilate.

“I still can’t go back on the motorway. But I know breathing is what will help me to be able to do so.”

And breathing effectively is simple: teach yourself to breathe in and out from your stomach. Transformational breathing is even used by Navy Seals in stressful situations. In short: you hold your breath for five seconds and then you repeat it for four or five times.

For Dennis, she turned to transformational breathing after suffering from depressing for over 20 years.

“I was on medication and I’d tried everything,” says Dennis. “At the time there wasn’t a lot of awareness or help in regard to mental health. Occasionally I would get suicidal thoughts and at one point I tried to take my own life.

After discovering this breathing technique things changed for Dennis.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park but I tried it everyday, and the layers of depression finally cleared,” says Dennis.

In the UK, one in four people are currently dealing with a mental health issues.

“When we’re feeling depressed we think we need to make big changes but actually it can be something as simple as trying this breathing technique,” says Cotton.

“The idea is that you feel lighter and more energetic. I’ve found that through this technique I react to anxiety and stresses in a very different way now,” says Dennis.

You can find out more in Dennis’ book, And Breathe.

Images: Stylist / Instagram 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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