Feeling Stressed? Just Breathe!Posted: 16th of June 2015 by
When you get stressed you start to breathe in shorter, shallow breaths, your heart rate may increase, and you may even start to perspire lightly too. This type of reaction is in line with what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism – the natural instinct that kicks in when we sense we may be in danger. When faced with a hungry lion or a bear it is quite natural for this potentially life-saving instinct to kick in. It causes adrenaline to flow and even allows us to perform physical feats that would normally be beyond us – such as with the case of the mother who lifted a car to free her child who was trapped underneath! However, this instinctive reaction may not be the most useful answer to bad news, a tough day at work, or any number of other stressful 21st century situations. Fortunately, this stress can be dealt with quite easily, given a little practice.
It is all a question of breathing. Just as stress can increase your breathing, blood pressure, and heart-rate, so you can control this reaction by slowing your breathing down to a more relaxed pace. It is a bit like tricking your body out of its stress response, but it has been shown to work.
Called the ‘relaxation response,’ this technique is the exact opposite of what happens when we feel overwhelmed with stress and are ready to face that instinctive emergency. In order to do this, you need to become aware of your breathing.
Breathing in and out is something that you do subconsciously, just like how your blood pumps around your body, or your eyes blink. However, you can take control of this function – like when you hold your breath to dive under water. By controlling your breathing, you can also lower your stress levels and get a grip on a situation before your instinct kicks in with a fight or flight reaction.
It is best to practice this technique before you encounter stress, so you know what to do and it feels more natural when you need it. Find a quiet room and sit down comfortably and make sure you are not going to get distracted for ten minutes or so.
Let yourself relax and start breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this slowly (try counting to 5 on each inhale and exhale). Inhale the air deeply, and try placing a hand on your stomach to feel it rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Exhale deeply too – as if you are blowing a candle flame so that it flickers. If you start to feel light-headed you are probably breathing too quickly and need to slow down.
Just the process of breathing deeply can help relax you, but you can increase the effect by adding a little bit of thought. Imagine that your breaths are bringing in pure clean air that is quite literally filling your body with calmness, and that you outward breaths are pushing any stress or problems out to float away and dissipate like smoke.
As you do this try to envision a calm place. It might be a beach or a mountain-top. It is entirely up to you, but let your mind drift away and see that place as if you are there. Don’t worry if other thoughts enter your mind, just observe them as if they are passing through and continue to put yourself in your ‘calm place.’
This deep breathing technique can be great for dealing with stressful situations, but is also a good way to start your day, or calm down ahead of a stressful situation such as a job interview. Many people like to use this type of technique first thing every morning to set themselves up for the day.
You have heard of breathing deeply and counting to ten – so why not make it part of your stress-busting techniques!
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