5 Breathing Techniques For When You're Nervous & Need A Moment To Center Yourself
You've probably experienced that nervous "butterflies in your stomach" feeling before, right? It's that feeling you get before a big presentation or an important work meeting, when you low-key feel like you're about to vom. TBH, I used to just cross my (aggressively sweaty) fingers and hope for the best whenever I felt this way, but I soon realized that wasn't a good tactic whatsoever. Thankfully, I figured out a few breathing techniques for when you're nervous that actually work to keep your head on straight and help you stay calm in even the most nerve-wracking situations.
There are countless recommendations and suggestions out there on how to calm your nerves, but honestly, one of the most simple and effective methods lies in taking a few deep breaths. The power of your very own breath is so strong that ancient yogis created intricate breathing techniques — aka "pranayama" — to significantly reduce stress and unease in your everyday life.
However, as incredibly effective as these techniques are, many of them require patience and practice to master. Not to worry, though — there are plenty of breathing techniques that are designed to calm you down in an instant that you can literally do right in the bathroom before a meeting, or even while you're sitting down amongst others before a presentation (seriously, no one will even notice).
Try these five breathing techniques to center yourself and quiet that mental chatter when you're nervous AF. In and out, girl, in and out.
1. Deep Belly Breaths
Simply filling your belly up with air seems easy enough. After all, isn't that just, well, breathing? You might assume so, but most people don't actually take full, deep, expansive breaths on the reg, and many people unknowingly constrict their breathing to shallow inhales that reside in the chest.
According to Harvard Health, taking a few moments to engage in deep abdominal breathing — the kind of breaths that make your stomach balloon and puff out — has the power to slow a racing heartbeat and stabilize blood pressure, which can both go haywire when you're super nervous.
Whenever you start to feel really uneasy, try taking three deep, expansive inhales, and alternate with three more long, drawn-out exhales.
2. Co2 Rebreathing
Sometimes you can be so freaking nervous that it feels like you're on the verge of hyperventilating. That sh*t sucks, but there is a way to regulate your breathing and find your center again.
According to Calm Clinic, an online resource for information about anxiety, these intense feelings of unease, and the resulting erratic breathing patterns, might mean that your carbon dioxide levels are low and need replenishing. When this happens, there's a technique called CO2 rebreathing that you can do, and it's basically a way to keep your carbon dioxide levels steady, and in turn, regulate your breathing again.
To try it out, simply cup your hands over your mouth, and breathe slowly and deliberately. Try doing this for a minute or so until you feel more like yourself again.
3. Inhale-Hold-Exhale Deep Breathing
This breathing technique is a bit more advanced than the others, but if you can bring yourself to try it in your nervous state, it's an extremely effective method.
The inhale-hold-exhale technique also takes a couple more minutes than these other methods, so be sure to try this one somewhere private, like a bathroom stall, so you can focus as much as possible.
The technique goes like this: Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for a count of eight. Repeat a few rounds of this until you feel more stable and grounded.
4. Equal Breathing
Equal breathing is another very simple way to calm your nerves, and it can be subtly done whenever and wherever. According to TIME, equal breathing is similar to counting sheep because of its soothing, balanced, and reassuring nature.
Begin your deep, full-belly breathing, but when you inhale, be sure to hold it out for a count of four. Then on your exhale, count to four again. This straightforward method will help calm your nervous system, relieve any stress you're holding, and substantially increase your focus once you're done.
5. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is one of the simpler pranayamas that can definitely be executed on the fly, and it doesn't require much practice to master.
This breathing technique instills a sense of deep calm, provides your body with a healthy dose of good energy, and helps give you laser-like focus.
To try it out yourself, place your right thumb over your right nostril, and inhale fully through your opposite nostril. When you've completed that inhale, take your ring finger and close off the left nostril, exhaling through your right nostril. Continue this restorative pattern until the butterflies in your stomach have chilled out, and your nerves have been settled.
You've got this, girl.