One of the most universal and necessary skills that we learn during early life is breathing. It comes naturally right? Well so we are thought to believe. Yet I spend time with nearly every person I see in the counselling service talking about breathing and teaching them different techniques on how to control their length, depth and speed of breathing. So it can’t be as easy as we first think it is. Sure breathing to survive is easy enough but what about breathing to reduce your stress or anxiety? Breathing to relax?
Breathe2relax is a free smartphone application for the iphone and android which teaches you diaphragmatic breathing techniques – which is just a fancy way of saying deep breathing. The app allows you to personalise the visual and audio settings to suit as well as set and adjust the length and number of cycles you want to include in each exercise. I found this useful because to be honest the default inhale was 7.2 seconds and this felt like forever for me to begin with. I adjusted it down to about 6.5 but left the exhale at the longer duration. I am gradually increase the time back up to 7.2 on inhale as I get better at the skill. Each exercise you can record your stress or anxiety level and then again at the end of the exercise so you can see the difference on the graph for each session but also across time as you start to practice over the days and weeks ahead.
This app also provides some psycho-education about stress, breathing and the impact of stress on the body. You can either read about it and click on the different parts of the body to see the impact stress has on each or you can watch a video that will give you the same information. Not every person experiences stress in the same way and I found myself identifying with different physical sensations that I acknowledge are part of my own stress symptomology.
What’s good about it: It’s quick to set up and understand, you get to control the length of time you spend each time practising and you can either read or watch and listen to the information about stress and breathing so vision and literacy is not a limiting factor.
What’s not so good: Your data whilst anonymous gets sent back to the developer of the application for research automatically. You will need to go turn this function off in the settings if you don’t want it to.