Most of us have probably been told at one point to “take a deep breath” when we are stressed. Maybe we’ve even tried to grab a few big gasps when a stressor is headed our way. Chances are, it didn’t help. Wonder why? Perhaps it was because when trying to take that quick shallow breath you didn’t get the reaction you wanted from your body. While breathing is something our brains are hard wired to do, breathing efficiently is often lost on us. Shallow breaths or deep breaths that never get fully let out do little more than oxygenate our bodies. However, deep, slow breathing can lead to a myriad of stress reducing reactions in our bodies. So, how can changing the way you breathe reduce stress?
What is Proper Breathing Anyway?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person (at rest) takes 12 to 20 breaths per minute. While this is considered the “norm”, we have to ask the question is it the most ideal type of breathing? Many research studies have show that we can do better at using our breathing to help us de-stress and feel more relaxed. Research suggests that in order to minimize stress and maximize your feeling of well being, a reduced respiration rate as well as fully exhaling each breath can lead to several positive health benefits. By learning to breathe more effectively we can pack a big punch to the effects of stress.
How Can Breathing Help With Stress?
The simple act of taking a deep breath triggers responses within the brain and body. Slow deep breaths mimic how our bodies respond when we are comfortable and at rest. Each time you stop to take a deep breath your body receives a message to relax. This releases chemical messengers into your brain that let you entire system know – it’s time to de-stress.
Now imagine you experience a stressful situation – your breathing probably starts to increase in pace as a response. You might also “over-breath” or take in big breathes but not let enough air out of your lungs. By taking a moment and paying attention to your breathing you can help send your body a message to stay calm. Slow and steady breathing in the midst of a stressor is the first line of defense against stress. When you take a breath in and let it all the way out, your body will experience and reduction in tension throughout your shoulders, neck, back and face.
How Can I Apply Proper Breathing to Avoid Stress?
While this sounds easy enough, how can you apply it in your daily life? In order to ensure that you will be able to use breathing as a way to calm stress, practice makes perfect. By practicing some breathing techniques, like belly breathing, breath training using an EMG device or meditative breathing, you will have the skills needed when stress finds you. As soon as you detect a stressor on your radar, stop, take a minute and focus on your breathing. This will help you slow down and keep stress to a minimum.
By understanding how to use breathing to battle stress you can help reduce and maybe even eliminate the unwanted effects of stress. When you feel stress weighing down upon you, taking a few minutes to steady your breathing. Proper, purposeful breathing can relieve tension, improve your resiliency and lower your overall stress level. Knowing how to control your breathing might be the difference between stressed out and feeling well.