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Because of what I do, I often get to go and watch athletes perform. I get to go to the field. I get to go in the pool. I get to go on the mountain. I get to go on the track. I like to go and observe and sometimes I will hear an athlete tell a coach they’re nervous and anxious and concerned and worried. And I will then hear the coach say “it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Just breathe.”

Well, the athlete is already breathing. Believe me, they’re breathing. If ever you are anxious, believe me, you are still breathing. The important thing to do at this point is to engage in deep breathing. When we’re anxious, worried, fearful, sad, or frustrated, our breath tends to be very shallow. You’ll see your shoulders moving and you’ll see your chest lifting. What we want to do, to calm down our emotions, mindset, and physiological states, is to bring that breath into our center and into our diaphragm.

Now, there are many amazing breathing techniques. I like belly breathing because it’s simple to learn. Put your hand on your belly button and when you inhale, experience your belly button pushing into your hand. When you exhale, feel your stomach contract. Do that again and again, feeling your stomach expand and contract. You can belly breath on a count of four if you’d like to add more choreography.

Belly breathing lowers your heart rate. It changes your skin conductance. It decreases muscle tension. It also helps to emotionally calm you down so that you can feel relieved and at peace. Lastly, it’s great to mentally calm you down because, for a moment in time, you are not thinking of your past stressor, current stressor, or future stressor. You are literally practicing a skill called centering because you are bringing your hand to your center and bringing your mind to your hand (which is on your center).

You can belly breath for a short time if you have a minute or two. You can also do it for longer.

Now, we all get to do what coaches are asking of our athletes (i.e. just breath), but now we’re just deep breathing with intention!

If you like other breathing techniques and would like to share them with our community, please include them in the chat room. There are so many wonderful breathing exercises and they will work for you when you work them!

If you have any questions, comments, or anything you’d like to share, leave them in the space provided.
Until next time, have a wonderful rest of your day!

Dr. Haley Perlus, PhD

Dr. Haley Perlus works with some of the world’s top athletes, brands, and fitness experts to move past mental blocks and achieve results uniquely tailored to the individual or corporation’s goals and expectations. Follow her or subscribe to receive videos featuring Mental Toughness Moments.

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