The key to relaxed breathing is your stomach.
- Draw the breath in by pushing your stomach out and letting your chest move up (try not to move your back) then breathe out by pulling your stomach in and letting your chest drop a bit.
- Breathe in gradually through your nose as you count to 5 and take in as much air as you can.
- Hold your breath to a count of 10 (if you can last that long) then let it out gradually. (As an alternative you can let it out in a rush, through your mouth.)
- Concentrate on how your body feels, particularly as the air comes out. You should feel your body relaxing.
- Repeat (if you have time) - 3 is a good number of repetitions to aim for. Each breath should result in you feeling just a little more relaxed.
This is part of a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation where you systematically tense and relax all the muscle groups in your body.
- Pick one or two muscles - it’s best if they’re in places that are feeling tense but any body part will do.
- Sit or lie comfortably, then as you take in a deep breath tense the muscles you have chosen e.g. make your hands into tight fists, or lift your shoulders up high and tense your neck. Hold your breath and hold the muscles tight for the count of 10 (if you can last that long).
- Let go as you breathe out. All the while focus your mind on what you are experiencing, the tension while tensing and the flow of relaxation as you let go. Notice the way the body parts become limp and loose. Breathe slowly for a few seconds while you enjoy the relaxed feeling.
- Repeat this with as many parts of the body as you have time. Doing each tense-then-relax cycle twice is also good. Also, try listening to Quit’s Ten Good Ways of Relaxing audio ...
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Mindfulness involves focusing on what is happening right now, your 'moment-to-moment' experience - both internal and external.
Avoid thinking about the past or the future, what the feelings or thoughts mean, or what is happening somewhere else. For example, you could focus on your breathing or the feel of the sunlight on your skin.
If thoughts about other things come into your mind (and they will) simply note that they have occurred and return your focus to the present. It’s impossible to focus on everything that is happening here and now so you need to choose one simple thing
You only need to do this activity for a few seconds to get an initial benefit . Persist for longer and it can have more benefits. It can be very useful when you’re in a situation when you can't use other strategies.
Practising other ways to feel better can be helpful when you’re stressed
- Exercise is a great stress-buster
- Make a plan that is realistic for you to achieve. Getting more exercise can be as simple as getting off the bus one stop early or using stairs instead of lifts. Or try signing up for some group exercises or team sports.
- Write down the things that typically make you feel stressed
- Family? Work? Traffic? Brainstorm different ways to combat stressful moments so that you don't feel the temptation to smoke again. Start practising these strategies.
- Make a change in your routine
- Get up earlier or go for a morning walk. Instead of smoking when you're stuck in traffic, call a friend (hands free) or take a soft, rubber ball in the car to do hand exercises.
- Eat healthier
- Include lots of healthy snacks such as carrot or celery sticks and fruit.
- Spend time with positive people
- It’s helpful to be around people who are supportive of you quitting smoking.
- Treat yourself to a fun activity
- Take a weekend getaway, fishing trip, full body massage or something that you've wanted to do for a while but put off.
- Reduce or go off alcohol for a while
- Try water with lemon or a low-calorie soft drink instead.
- Reduce your caffeine consumption
- Try drinking less caffeine - quitting smoking increases the effects of caffeine in your body, and can make you feel nervous or cranky.
Your GP can refer you to a psychologist to learn new ways to manage stress if need be. Medicare rebates are available .