Welcome to our new series of bitesize blogs containing quick tips and ideas to help you build resilience and boost wellbeing.

Given the challenges we are all facing, it is natural for us to feel stressed, worried or anxious at times. And, when we feel under threat or overwhelmed our bodies become more aroused, preparing us to fight or flee.

An early warning sign that we are experiencing this self-protective mechanism is that our breathing changes, becoming short and shallow. We might notice that we are sighing, yawning or gasping.

These are signs that we are over-breathing, which is part of the fight or flight response. This response is helpful if we really do need to flee from a threat, but when we are trying to work or deal with our kids it can cause us problems.

Learning to calm your breathing, by adopting a soothing breathing rhythm will help. This involves taking a shorter in-breath than out-breath in a regular rhythm.

Known as slow rhythmic breathing, the aim of this technique is to slow the breathing down, burn off the excess oxygen that we have inhaled during over-breathing and expel the associated carbon dioxide that has built up in the bloodstream. This helps to reduce sympathetic nervous system arousal and will help you feel calm, safe and relaxed.

Have a go now:

  • Breathe in for the count of 4 seconds
  • Breathe out for the count of 6 seconds
  • Pause for 1 second
  • Repeat

If you find when practicing this technique that you are struggling for breath, you can adjust the ratio (try breathing in over 3 seconds and out over 5). Remember that the key is to stick to a regular rhythm with a longer out- breath than in-breath. It can help to follow a moving image such as this blue square, and also to imagine you are breathing out gently through a straw.

Practising slow rhythmic breathing for a few minutes a day over 1 or 2 weeks will allow the technique to become embedded.

Try it out initially at a time when you feel calm and safe, perhaps when you are at home and will not be disturbed.

Once you have got the hang of it you can start using it in situations where you find yourself experiencing signs and symptoms of stress, feel anxious or overwhelmed.

If you found this helpful and would like to read more bitesize tips, check out some of the other blogs in this series. You might also like to join our Facebook group UR Resilient, where members are busy sharing creative and inspiring ideas for staying positive during this challenging time.