Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Tool: Lengthen the duration of your exhale as you breathe out
Pillar: 2. Relaxation
This is one of my favourite tools to induce a sense of calm and I teach it to all of my clients. I also use it myself almost every day - when I'm getting ready for meetings, out for a walk, shopping, or any time I am noticing myself feeling stressed or anxious to various degrees. Lengthening my exhale basically helps me create a feeling of inner calm and can help my "revved up" feelings inside to settle.
Lengthening your exhale and the dentist
So when it comes to your fear of the dentist, you can use it as a tool whenever a thought about the dentist pops up and triggers your fear. This can be any time from when you are calling to make an appointment, on your way to the dentist or when you're at the dentist in the waiting room or in the chair.
It is a very simple practice it that can be applied at any time when you are feeling anxious or stressed or just a little tense, and I always recommend practicing it outside the dental setting first as an important key for you to get used to it before going into a higher pressure situation.
As simple as that. Yet, it might take a bit of remembering to get used to, but once you are used to it, calming yourself down by lengthening your exhale is a super power you can use at any time. The reason for this is that it changes the state of your nervous system, and lengthening the exhale helps the nervous system to go from a state of sympathetic "Fight and Flight" towards a parasympathetic state of "Rest and Digest".
What to do
The key is first of all to notice when you are getting tense, anxious or stressed. Some signs of this are: Your breathing is shorter and more rapid, your muscles are more tense, your focus is "out there". You might feel sweaty palms and a racing heart.
So when you notice yourself "revving up", the invitation is simply to first of all notice "I am feeling anxious". And then from there for every breath you take, focus on lengthening the exhale a little bit with each outbreath. And as you do so, try to let go, soften and relax a little more each time as you do so. This can include choosing to let your muscles and inner state relax a little more each time.
This allows for your nervous system get back more into balance and for you to feel a little more calm inside.