Deep Breathing

The Effects of Stress

When we face a threat our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear (fight or flight response).  To face the danger our body:

  • Releases adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol into the bloodstream. This gives us more energy
  • Heart rate increases, blood vessels dilate and blood pressure rises (more blood is pumped to lungs and muscles for action)
  • Breathing is faster and more shallow, air passages in the lungs dilate to enable more absorption of oxygen

When the danger goes away, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, allowing our body to relax.

This amazing process in our body has kept us alive for thousands of years.  But, even though there aren’t many mountain lions out to eat us, our body is still on high alert for danger.  So if we are driving along, minding our own business and someone cuts us off making us feel threatened….. BOOM fight or flight goes into gear.  We can’t run away from this threat.  We can’t fight the other driver (or we shouldn’t).  So now all this energy turns into stress and tension.  This can eventually turn into life “burn-out”, anger, depression, anxiety, or even suicide.  Some people even have physical symptoms that come out like headaches, high blood pressure, stomach disorders, asthma, and eventually death.

Jeesh.  Death from stress?!  Yep.  Death from stress.  How would you like that on your headstone?!  “Here lies Molly.  Stress finally got her”.  How do we fight it?  Can we fight it?

Yes we can!!!  There are lots of things you can do to fight stress.  Some of the most effective weapons are deep breathing, progressive muscular relaxation, visualization, and meditation.

Deep Breathing  4 – 2 – 6

We usually tend to breathe from the upper part of our lungs – you will know if you’re doing this if your chest goes out when you take a deep breath.

We should breathe from our lower lungs – you will know if you’re doing this if your stomach goes out when you take a deep breath.

When we are under stress, we tend to breathe fast and shallow.  The complete opposite of what we should do.  Deep, slow breathing gives our body time to absorb the oxygen and get rid of toxins.

Breathing for Relaxation:

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes (this changes brain waves from beta to alpha)
  • Take a big breath in through your nose.  Make sure it comes from deep in your belly (your stomach should go out)
  • Bring it all the way up to your chest for a count of 4
  • Hold it for a count of 2
  • Slowly release the breath through your mouth for a count of 6

Practice deep breathing periodically throughout your day when you’.  Make this a part of your everyday life.

Then when you are starting to feel stressed or you know you are going to be experiencing a stressful event soon, you can start doing this to actually calm you down.  Deep breathing for stress relief works best if you start it when your stress level is just beginning to rise.  If you’re already having an anxiety attack, it may help, but it will be limited.