Did you know that how you breathe can affect your stress level? Too much stress is hard on the body, and we tend to breathe inefficiently when experiencing heightened levels of stress. Breathing too quickly can elicit anxiety, hyperventilation, and panic attacks. So, knowing the right way to breathe can be a game-changer in managing stress.
Better Breathing in Five Steps
Inhaling is linked to the sympathetic nervous system (our fight-or-flight response), and exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us recover and relax). Based on his studies of meditation, Dr. Herbert Benson (cardiologist and founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine) coined the term "The Relaxation Response" to describe a five-step breathing technique to relax the body and mind. Using controlled breathing, muscle relaxation, and single-word repetition, this method effectively treats many stress-induced disorders. Once you have it down, it’s like being able to dip into a supply of calm whenever you need it. Here are the steps: /p>
- Find a comfortable position and sit quietly.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all your muscles. Start at your toes and work upward to your face. You should feel as if your body is limp and all tension from each muscle is completely released. Keep your muscles relaxed.
- Breathe in and out only through your nose. Become aware of your breathing and keep it easy and natural. Breathe in. Upon exhaling, say the word "one" silently to yourself. You can choose another word if you like, but the word should be soothing, with no association or meaning.
- Maintain for 5 minutes. Feel free to check the time, but avoid using an alarm. When time is up, remain quietly seated with eyes closed for a few extra breaths. After completing the exercise, you should feel centered, calm, and strengthened.
As you continue this practice, you can start increasing the time if you like. Come back to these steps any time you find yourself needing to calm your nervous system. And be sure to share this exercise with family and friends.