How To Use Your Breath to Feel Less Stressed
Breathing usually seems fairly automatic as we spin through our daily routines. It seldom gets our attention, unless something goes wrong.
But the way we breathe can actually have a negative or positive impact on the mind and the body. As people who are stressed out often discover, the simple act of breathing can turn out to be a way to calm down and release tension.
Lifehack explains what can happen, either good or bad, and then takes a closer look at the actual process.
What goes wrong with improper breathing?
Improper breathing can affect the muscles, brain, nervous system, and heart. First, the nervous system can becomes overly excited creating stress and anxiety.
Then increased muscle tension and tightening blood vessels make the heart work harder, increasing blood pressure and tiring the body. The brain gets less oxygen, and it is hard to think clearly.
How proper breathing can help you.
In contrast, when you breathe correctly it can be a complete boost for your mind and your body, Blood pressure drops, easing the heart and relaxing the body. The nervous system becomes balanced and stress levels back off. Oxygen flows more easily to the brain making it easier to think.
In the caveman era, physical challenges might justify speeding up the system, helping us fight or flee. But now daily challenges tend to be mental, and sudden, agitated shortness of breath simply makes it harder to cope with typical waves of people or paperwork.
Start Now & Learn How You Breathe
Place one hand over your chest and the other over your stomach.
Sigh, as if you are tired. Let your shoulders drop and your muscles relax. At the same time, don’t let all the air out of your lungs. Just relax your upper body.
Close your mouth again and pause. Stop breathing and count to three. While keeping your mouth closed, slowly inhale air through your nose. Be aware and mindful of the way you inhale. Your stomach should expand, while your chest remains still. Pause and count to three.
Finally, breathe out by opening your mouth and letting your stomach go back in. This is your diaphragm contracting. Once again, pause. Repeat the whole process.
See How Breathing Could Help You Handle Ongoing Stress
Once you feel comfortable with the process, think about where and when a few minutes of focused breathing might help you mentally or physically regroup.
Sometimes we have simply taken one too many calls, absorbed too many deadlines, or sat through a lengthy meeting that finally pushed us over the edge. We emerge feeling tight, gulping with short breaths, as we feel a headache coming up fast.
Now would be a good time to close the office door, or step outside to a quiet spot. Sit down, close your eyes and just focus on your breathing, letting the rest of your thoughts go. At first that is tough to do, but gradually, just sitting and letting your body rest will begin to help. Your body needed a break and you are taking it. Then you can get up, feel a little clearer and more relaxed, and head back into your day.
If simple breathing breaks work for you find out more about mindful meditation, tai chi or yoga. Each one of these will teach you more about using your breath to keep your balance. And they can all deliver a powerful amount of stress release for the little amount of time invested.
As always, if stress continues to impact your life, see your doctor for a discussion and overall health review.