Breathing rehabilitation - the new CBT of the decade?

  • 7 December 2020

Breathing well and neuropsychological resilience for our children.
Breathing well moves us towards relaxation and the ability to calm and achieve clarity of thought.

The ability to self-regulate and self soothe is the most primitive and essential function we learn as a human being. From the minute we are born we start this process, and we continue throughout early childhood.

To learn self-regulation and self-soothing strategies equips us with the ability to control one’s behaviour, attention and emotion when challenged.

Factors that feed into this process are internal: the nature of the child; and external: the ability of the caregiver/parent to also self-regulate and enable self-soothing strategies. As an adult when with a child, especially when comforting a distressed toddler, awareness of your own breath, slowing your breath, using a soothing tone helps regulate their system and is a great start to sending such signals.

Imagine that you have just escaped from a car crash - shaking, adrenaline fueled, heart racing, head spinning. The first thing to do is to register that you’re safe and out of danger. Thoughts are chaotic and breathing will be rapid and shallow. As long as your breath is rapid and shallow, thoughts will remain chaotic. So the first step is to slow the breath, as does an athlete who completes their race.

The image of the sprinter post race regulating their breaths and movements until a state of normality exists is clear to observe. So this must be the first thing post a traumatic event. This allows for processing of the situation, and emotion to emerge.

101 is awareness of the breath, slow it down – in the nose, out the mouth, longer exhales, in the nose, out the mouth, longer exhales, until one can breathe in and out of the nose with a regular rate and a calm rhythm. When settled, this sends a clear message to the brain and hence, thoughts and the mind that all is well - everything is OK, the danger has passed.
Learning this as a young child certainly sets the foundation for healthy physiological resilience. We know the mind can spin out some wonderful stories, both horror and beauty, but the ability to tame these depends on one’s ability to self-regulate.

Pause, breathe, reset and rethink.

It would be great if it was as simple as that. Some of us do need to relearn such skills. To do so, please always see a skilled health practitioner, as resetting is not a cognitive process. It involves the therapist's understanding of innate physiological, biochemical and biomechanical processes and how to balance all these systems, and that is tailor-made to the individual.

BradCliff practitioners are post graduate trained health professionals skilled in all of the above. They have the ability to tailor-make treatments, and to critically assess an individual's breathing pattern/dysfunction - is it organic or not? So many things can go wrong. Seek professional help.

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