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Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief

By Natalie Jewell

Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, your stomach is in knots, and your head is pounding. You're stressed and feeling anxious. And, of course, this is happening at the most inconvenient of times -- likely in front of people. Not fun.

Fight or Flight

Any number of things can contribute to us feeling stressed. Whether it be trying to meet deadlines at work, worrying about upcoming exams at school, experiencing financial strain, or juggling career and family, most everyone feels stressed, to one degree or another, at some point in their lives.

In response to this perceived threat, our body often goes into fight or flight mode, in order to protect itself. One such reaction is hyperventilating, where we breathe way too fast in an effort to get more oxygen to our lungs. It's not very calming, however, and can have the opposite effect.

Methods of Mitigation

The good news is, whether you suffer from a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are experiencing situational stress, learning how to breathe properly can help. Here are some breathing techniques to help you cope:

To start, sitting or lying down, put one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. If you're comfortable with it, close your eyes to help you be mindful while doing your exercises. To help you stay in the moment, try picturing something you find soothing like the beautiful blue ocean. Try to tune out any noise around you or wear earplugs if need be. Listening to relaxing music may help also.

Now, take a full, slow breath through your nose focusing more on filling your belly than your lungs. You should be able to feel your abdomen rise or expand gently when you breathe in. Counting silently, hold your breath for about five or six seconds.

Then, through pursed lips, breath out slowly through your mouth. You should be able to feel your abdomen fall or recede gently. Do this for about six to eight seconds, counting silently again as you empty your lungs.

Repeat these steps five or six times, or as many times as necessary, until you feel calm and relaxed.

Just Breathe

Ideally, you should practice these breathing exercises, even when you're not feeling stressed or anxious, until it becomes second nature. Before long you'll automatically employ this technique any time you find yourself panicking. This will serve you well when you find yourself feeling anxious unexpectedly. Sometimes there may be no apparent triggers and we can still feel stressed.

So, before you perform in front of your audience, walk down the aisle, or board that plane, be mindful and breathe.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Acworth.


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