4 Breathing Techniques To Help You Deal With Stress
As rewarding as trading can be, there’s also no denying that it can be incredibly stressful, particularly when you first start out with forex, as there’s so much to learn, so much to take in and so much to get to grips with.
It’s entirely understandable if you feel your blood pressure start to rise when you first start trading currency pairs, but it’s essential that you give yourself all the tools and resources you need to help you keep your emotions under control.
As we’ve said before (and as we’ll no doubt say again), emotional management is one of the top skills you’ll need to develop as a trader. Emotional trading is always ill-advised, whether you’re feeling stressed, anxious, sad, happy, angry or something else.
You need to make your decisions when you’re level-headed and thinking clearly, so you know you’re acting rationally and aren’t being swayed in one direction or another by some underlying urge. Succeed in this endeavour and you’ll likely see more consistent wins over time. Fail and you’ll likely start to see your profits take a hit.
But how do you go about regulating your emotions and how do you stop them from taking charge?
As with anything, it all comes down to practice and making sure that you have all you need at your disposal to help you take a step back, calm down and remain in control, no matter what happens on the trading floor.
To that end, you will likely find that focusing on your breathing can help you centre your mind, calm your nervous system and keep you on the straight and narrow. Here are just a couple of breathing techniques you could try that may well stand you in excellent stead throughout your trading career.
Breathing deeply in and out through the nose is an incredibly effective way of reducing feelings of anxiety and you can practise it at any time, no matter what you’re doing, so you’re sure to become an expert at it in no time at all.
Nasal breathing is a more relaxed way of getting the breath you need, helping to lower your blood pressure and keep your heart rate in check, so it could yield all sorts of positive effects for traders, both novice and experienced alike.
It can help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, instead of your fight or flight responses, so it keeps you calm even when you’re faced with seriously stressful circumstances… again, essential for traders of all kinds and at all levels.
Of course, we tend to breathe without thinking about it, so you may be breathing through your mouth without even knowing about it.
The first step to switching to nasal breathing is to become more aware of your breathing patterns, looking out for if your mouth drops open naturally, if your nostrils are regularly blocked and if you wake up regularly with a blocked nose and a dry mouth.
Looking for an exercise to try? What about practising alternate nostril breathing, where you inhale through one nostril and then exhale through the other, using your finger to close the opposing nostril each time.
This is also a great mindfulness technique since you’ll need to focus quite closely on what you’re doing, helping to clear your mind and making you feel even less stressed and anxious as you breathe.
Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing) is another brilliant way to help keep yourself calm, no matter what’s happening with your trades.
It may be a little trickier than nasal breathing to get to grips with, but the benefits can be extensive once you know what you’re doing.
Again, you may not necessarily be aware of just how important your diaphragm is for your breathing since everything happens relatively automatically, but this muscle (which can be found at the base of your lungs) actually has a really essential role to play with your breath.
When you inhale, it tightens and moves downwards to create more space in the chest so your lungs can then expand even further. And when you exhale, the muscle relaxes, moving back up into the chest cavity.
Belly breaths means you can take bigger, deeper breaths, so you’re working to encourage full oxygen exchange, which in turn then helps to slow your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure… which can prove very useful indeed from a trading perspective.
To get started, lie down on the floor or on your bed with your knees bent and a pillow beneath your hand. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just under the ribcage.
Breathe in slowly through the nose and direct the air down towards your belly, feeling your hand rise as your belly does. The hand on your chest should remain still – which is how you know you’re doing it right. Practise this a couple of times a day (you can also do it sitting on a chair, if that’s more practical) and you’ll soon get the hang of it.
The next time you’re stressed and anxious, pay attention to what happens with your breathing. You’ll probably find that your breaths are shorter, more irregular and more shallow than they are when you’re calm and you’ll probably find that your chest and shoulders come up when you inhale.
That’s because your sympathetic nervous system has been triggered by something and your fight or flight responses are now in charge.
Focusing on your breathing helps you to calm down, make you feel better and allow you to start thinking more rationally – something that bellows breathing techniques can really help you with.
Also known as Bhastrika, this type of breathing is something you often come across in yoga practice and it’s a popular one because it can help with stress, is energising and can potentially drop your heart rate and blood pressure, all at the same time.
To start, sit up and make sure your shoulders are relaxed. Take a few deep breaths through your nose and fill your belly with as much air as you can each time. Breathing from your diaphragm, quickly and forcefully inhale and exhale through your nose, aiming for ten breaths per cycle.
At the end of each cycle, take a break and breathe normally, then return to your bellows breath and repeat for three cycles. Once you’ve got to grips with the technique, you can start increasing the number of breaths and the number of cycles you are able to do.
Because it’s so energising, you may find that you prefer practising this technique first thing in the morning as a sort of wakeup call to get yourself all pumped up and ready to take on the day.
Humming bee breath
Yogic breathing can really help our physical, emotional and mental health and if you’re keen to put it into practice, the humming bee breath technique could be a great place to start… although you may want to make sure that there’s no one else around if you’re on the shy side, since you’ll be making lots of noise as you do it.
It involves making a humming sound as you breathe out, rather like the noise that a bee would make (hence the name!), and it’s thought that the sound and vibrations can really help release tension, soothe your anxious and stressed mind and help you feel more relaxed as you breathe.
To get started, sit down and make yourself comfortable somewhere, then close your eyes so you can really focus on what you’re doing and aren’t distracted by anything around you. Take a couple of moments to breathe in and out slowly through your nose, identifying any areas of tension in your face and body to encourage them to relax.
Using your index fingers, close off the tragus cartilage or cover your ears with the heels of your hands, then inhale and exhale deeply through the nose while your ears are covered. As you exhale, emit a humming noise – similar to a bee in tone. Repeat for six to ten cycles of breath, focusing on the sound of the breath and the vibration of the hum itself.
The idea is to strike a balance between the hum being strong enough for you to feel it but quiet and gentle enough for it to be relaxing for you. Tune into the vibration and see where you can feel it… hopefully it should be nice and soothing!
Once you’ve finished your cycles of breath, check in with yourself and see how you feel mentally, emotionally and physically. Hopefully, you’ll feel less agitated and stressed, less anxious and better able to tackle the tasks ahead.
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