In todays busy times it seems like there is no escaping stress. Think of the demands of work, home, family and society not to mention being bombarded with negative images and news of tragedy from the many media outlets. When you get overwhelmed and it feels like it is getting to be too much it is important to remember to just breathe.
Breathing is one of the simplest and most effective methods of stress management. Simple deep breathing techniques can be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Since the effects of stress are so multi faceted and some of the negative results and symptoms of stress can be stressors in themselves; it is most beneficial to take a holistic approach to stress management.
Deep breathing, or other breathing techniques fit nicely in with this type of approach. This is probably because breathing and stress are so similar in nature. Both are automatic functions of the body, yet both can be deliberately changed.
Many holistic, or naturopath healers believe that breath links the physical body to the ethereal mind. While many hold different philosophies or ideas about the effects of conscious breathing, science has proven that breathing correctly can help manage stress and stress related conditions.
Breathing under Stress
When a person is under stress they tend to breath differently. They will take short shallow breaths, since the brain controls breathing and the rate is set in accordance with carbon dioxide levels, rather than the rate of oxygen, too much carbon dioxide is often expelled causing an imbalance of gases in the body.
When a person is feeling nervous, anxious or stressed they will usually breath only with their shoulders and chest and does not use their diaphragm which also requires the use of abdominal muscles to breath properly and achieve the correct balance. When a person is relaxed their breathing is slow, calm and controlled.
Short, shallow breathing or hyperventilation in extreme cases can lead to physical symptoms of stress such as tightness in the chest, headaches, muscle aches, insomnia or even heart palpitations. By using diaphragm breathing, or breathing deliberately there are positive results that can be seen and felt including lowered blood pressure, increased energy and even improved immunity.
Breathing is the only bodily function you can do either consciously or unconsciously. Breathing consciously is a learned habit. While anyone can do it even initially, it may take some practice to achieve the best results.
There are a few different approaches that you can take. The best way to learn abdominal breathing is to close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Pay attention to which muscles are being used, the rate and depth of the breaths. It may be helpful to place one hand over the chest and one over the diaphragm to feel the muscles at work.
In times of stress or anxiety the best way to relax is to breathe by taking a slow but short inhale, followed by a slow, but significantly longer exhale. By doing this a few times you can start to control your rate of breathing and exude a sense of calm when needed.