Firefighters are no strangers to stressful situations. Whether you are on the job, working on your firefighter promotional exam prep, or in the middle of taking the exam itself, breathing exercises can be a great tool to help reduce anxiety and stay focused on the task at hand.
According to Psychology Today, one of the quickest ways to reduce stress and increase relaxation by slowing your heart rate, is by slow breathing. The slow breathing technique focuses solely on breathing out. You want to push the air out of your mouth slowly and gently until you have no breath left. You can imagine you are blowing bubbles….you can practice by actually blowing bubbles if you wish. Whatever you do, keep it gentle, do not use any force when breathing out. You do not need to focus on how you are breathing in, just focus on gently blowing air out. Repeat this process over and over for a few minutes and see how you feel.
Most people tend to breathe through their chest and take shallow breaths which doesn’t allow oxygen to reach all parts of the lungs, this is where deep breathing comes in. According to Harvard, deep breathing has the potential to slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. To deep breath, breathe in through your nose, and let that air fill your lungs completely until your belly pushes out, then hold for a couple of seconds and breath out through your mouth. Feel free to try it with your eyes closed and let the anxiety wash away. If you are having trouble doing this, try laying down with a book on your stomach and watch your stomach rise as you practice deep breathing. How do you feel? Better, right!? This could be just the tool you need to keep thay test day anxiety at bay.
Now that you have mastered deep breathing you can take it a step further. Here’s how it’s done, breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold that breath in for seven seconds. Then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds, and repeat.There is a learning curve to this one and according to Medical News Today you may feel lightheaded at first and should not do more than four of these exercises in a row. Not only will it help reduce anxiety, but it also said to help you fall asleep and help reduce anger responses. Go ahead and give it a try and see how you feel.
Now this is not one you can do in the middle of a stressful call, or during your firefighter promotional exam, but you can make it a part of your routine to reduce stress before it even reaches you. Yoga is all about effective breathing and is not only a great exercise, it is a great tool to combat stress. Yoga will calm your mind, as well as help with flexibility, balance, and agility. Most importantly, yoga will help you remain calm in stressful situations like your firefighter promotional exam. Remember, yoga is not just for hippies and housewives, it has amazing benefits that can help everyone live a more stress free life no matter how ridiculous it may seem at first.
Give these breathing techniques a try and see if they help reduce your anxiety. Having these breathing techniques in your back pocket while you are working on your firefighter promotional exam prep, or even during the test itself will be so beneficial to your anxiety. They are quick tools to help combat anxiety and help you relax so you can stay motivated while working toward your promotional goal.