Just Breathe - The Power of the Breath to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Breathe yourself back to calm
Did you know that the average person takes about 20,000 breaths per day? Not only is your breath essential to the health and vitality of the body and your life-source but it can also reconnect you to your inner self and reduce stress and anxiety.
When you are under too much pressure and the stress response kicks in, breathing can become quicker and more shallow and you lose the ability to think rationally as your body is preparing to escape the perceived threat or danger. By slowing your breathing down and taking deeper breaths you can take yourself out of this reactive state which allows you to think more clearly and feel more calm. Focusing your attention on the breath by making your exhale longer than your inhale has also been shown to send the body into a more parasympathetic state, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels (stress hormone).
Also when you experience difficult emotions, the flow of your breath is interrupted which in turn affects your health and well-being. By learning how to control the breath you can help calm the mind and regulate the nervous system.
The benefits of controlling your breathing
There are many benefits of controlling your breathing to improve your health and well-being.
Studies are showing that changing the pattern of breathing helps restore balance to the stress response systems, helps calm an agitated mind, relieves anxiety symptoms and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can improve physical health and endurance and elevate performance. There is a hidden power in the breath when you learn how to control it!
Simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety with the breath
There are many easy breathing exercises you can try such as box or square breathing, diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing), 4-7-8 breathing and alternate nostril breathing. Intentional breathing is another simple technique as you focus on taking slow deep breaths in and out, often to a number of counts.
Try the following easy exercise:
Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight
Eyes can be open or closed
Inhale through your nose for a count of 4
Pause for a count of 2
Exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 6
Do this for a number of rounds but stop if you feel light headed!
By doing this your breathing rate will come down and you will feel less anxious. This has also been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve which is related to healing.
Mindfulness and Meditation practices often incorporate breathing techniques into them and are well known for promoting calm and reducing stress and anxiety. For more information about meditation visit https://www.lincsholisticwellness.com/meditation and for mindfulness visit https://www.lincsholisticwellness.com/mindfulness where you can sign up to receive free mindfulness meditation exercises including some breathing exercises mentioned above.
More ways to incorporate breathing practices to reduce stress and anxiety
Pranayama is the practice of breath control in yoga and consists of synchronising the breath with movements between asanas (postures), but is also a distinct form of breathing exercise on its own, usually practiced after asanas.
Tai chi and qigong also focus on breathing and movement and can help with stress and anxiety.
If you are interested in learning more about these and their many benefits to your health and well-being then visit the following links:
Holistic Health and Wellness Coach
Material produced for general educational purposes only and not intended to replace medical advice. Any exercise undertaken at your own risk.