A physiological control technique that is taught by Survival Activities is breath control. Grossman refers to this technique as 'tactical breathing' and suggests that extensive feedback confirms that tactical breathing has saved many lives. He explains that it is an easy-to-do technique that can be used in stressful situations to 'slow your thumping heart beat, reduce the tremble in your hands, ... and to bathe yourself with a powerful sense of calm and control.' Siddle refers to this technique as 'combat breathing' and suggests that numerous studies indicate that voluntary changes in breathing pattern can modify an individual's ability to cope with fear-provoking situations and reduce anxiety under stressful conditions. He argues that combat breathing should be a mandatory component of survival and combat training. Christensen suggests that the technical term for this technique is 'autogenic breathing' and explains that SWAT officers report using it before making high-risk forced entries, and soldiers use it to bring calm to their minds and bodies before they go into battle and after the battle to 'come down' from the adrenalin rush.The above is an excerpt from my book. How does autogenic/combat/tactical breathing work to produce these calming effects? How it works can be understood by referring to the survival process.
The survival process is a model I've developed based on the integration of fight-or-flight, stress and emotion theory. It involves an appraisal process that elicits a feeling, physiological, impulse to act and behavioural response that this designed to influence the initiating stimulus. All the components in the survival process are highly interconnected. Influence one component and you can influence another or all of the other components.
How controlling breathing produces calming effects can be understood by the interconnectedness of the components of the survival process. A stimulus is perceived as a threat eliciting a feeling of fear with an accompanying physiological reaction. Among the physiological reactions is an increase in heart and breathing rates which are designed to increase the amount of oxygen being supplied to the muscles required to flee the threat. Controlling the breathing rate intervenes in the physiological response. This intervention influences the feeling response as well as the other physiological responses as well as the appraisal of the initiating stimulus.Autogenic breathing needs to be taught and practiced/trained (Crucial Elements of Firearms Training by B.R. Johnson).
I would teach my students that when they felt under pressure in any form of reality based training that if they start to feel overwhelmed to take a step back and suck in a breathe or two. Everything calms down with those breathes because controlling the physiological response affects the feeling response and the appraisal of the stimulus.