Right now, I want you to stop focusing on your breathing. Let your breathing rate occur normally. Do not pay any attention to your inhalation or exhalation. Now, having received these directions, the problem is that you can’t stop focusing on it. As a matter of fact, your breathing rhythm changed because you became aware of it. Breathing is the one physiological response that we can control. It is the balancing act for our body, especially when we find ourselves in a stressful situation.
Many articles and books have explored the concept of tactical breathing over the past few years. That being said, how often have you remembered to take utilize these skills during operations? If you’re like most of us, we cycle through a process where we initially stop breathing or where our breathing intensifies. In an effort to control this sudden change in breathing rate, we tend to hold our breath for a period of time. We want to offer an approach that enables you to integrate breathing techniques and breathing reminders into your planning process, your training, and all areas of your life. It’s time we clearly connect BREATHING to RECOVERY.
The most important aspect of success is creating moments of recovery. A moment of recovery is a brief pause at a critical point in time that enables us to increase situational awareness and define what actions need to be taken to achieve desired and optimal results. We all know that we need a “clear head” to handle difficult moments. Controlling our breathing rate is the path to that clarity. It is the key to shifting our physiological response and bringing necessary oxygen to our systems.
There are a few important things to understand about rhythmic breathing so that we’re operating at our peak:
1. Whether you are a 4-4-4 person, a 6-6 person or a 4-4 person (explained below), it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are actively involved in creating a rhythmic pattern of inhalation and exhalation using your diaphragm, not just the short shallow breathing often found when we are entering a fight or flight response.
2. Just like you’ve been told your entire life, “breath in through the nose, out through the mouth,” and just like with many other things we’ve been told, we ignore it. It’s time to really take on this methodology, because it could save your life or the lives of those around you!
3. Maximize it! It’s often referred to as belly breathing but you’ve got to get use to expanding your diaphragm and taking full breathes. This takes practice. You go to the range don’t you? Well, then get on it and practice your breathing!
4. PLAN FOR IT!!! We plan for everything, we exhaust options and we do our best to look at everything that could happen. Take on planning your Recovery Points and your Recovery Periods!
PLAN YOUR RECOVERY
Just like with everything else we plan for, we need to integrate our CRB’s into our planning cycle. We must identify the conditions that will heighten our stress profiles and create pockets of recovery (recovery points) and longer recovery periods. This allows us to create specific conditions that will trigger our rhythmic breathing cycles. Maybe it’s when the call comes in, maybe it’s when you initiate your surveillance detection route (SDR), maybe it’s when you pick up surveillance or you pick up your target, maybe it’s just before you step out of the vehicle on that traffic stop, maybe it’s just before you key the mic to communicate, maybe it’s as you move onto the objective… maybe, just maybe, it’s ALLof them!
What’s the difference between Recovery Points and Recovery Periods?
Recovery Pointsare moments (generally a few seconds) that allow you to initiate your CRB. They are like waypoints or known triggers that are going to heighten your stress.
Recovery Periodsare simply periods of time that you know you must continue your CRB as you move through the objectives, deal with a situation, or come down from an event.
Both of these need to be integrated into your planning process. Both need to be practiced. Both need to be recalled during operations.
Here’s your24 hour challenge: think through your day (work and home life) and plan out your RP’s. Take 8 minutes at the beginning of your day and practice your CRB (as below). Then integrate it for the next 24 hours. Note any changes in your performance, awareness, understanding, recognition and physiological response.
There are a variety of techniques you can deploy in your breathing patterns but the MOST IMPORTANT aspect is to ensure you are in a rhythmic state of breathing. This is a powerful process that begins to regulate your body’s systems, bringing clarity of mind to the situation and driving your performance in a critical moment. You have to find what works for you. It has to be comfortable and repetitive. If not, you will forget to do it when you need it most!
4-4-4: Breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 (100 – 200 – 300 -400), hold for a count of 4 (100 – 200 – 300 -400), out through the mouth for a count of 4 (100 – 200 – 300 -400)
4-4: Breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 (100 – 200 – 300 -400), out through the mouth for a count of 4 (100 – 200 – 300 -400)
6-6: Breathe in through the nose for a count of 6 (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6), out through the mouth for a count of 6 (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6)
Make sure you are expanding your diaphragm with each inhalation. You can place your hand on your belly and push out during your inhalation. If you need more information on how to accomplish this, here’s a quick resource to help you get started.
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
1. Practice your CRB 8 minutes a day, every day!
2. Identify your RP’s and plan actions.
3. Utilize your RP’s and CRB for the next 24 hours.
What do you think? Do you do this? Are you up for taking this on?