Stress is everywhere, and it’s making us sick. So many aspects of the modern world elicit stress responses. This makes it difficult to keep anxiety and depression at bay. There are medicines, HR procedures and even whole industries designed to help people reduce stress. Yet stress continues to present some of the modern world’s biggest challenges.
However, modern medicinal professionals are starting to recognize what ancient cultures have always known: Stress and physical ailments are forever linked to personal control. Personal control, at its most basic level, begins with your ability to regulate your breath.
“Whilst there are illnesses [that] will always require medical treatment, learning how to control your breathing and getting into a routine… has tangible health benefits,” says Kerri James, an author at Researchpapersuk and Last Minute Writing. Sometimes, we dismiss breathing techniques as “alternative therapy,” the sort of thing that man-bun-wearing beach bums endorse. However, there are several fundamental scientific reasons why controlled respiration is important to stress reduction.
Breathing and Respiration
The actual act of respiration is mostly unconscious. For most of your life, your body and brain will keep you breathing without you consciously making an effort to do so. Under stress, though, your body’s response causes you to take more shallow breaths. This is because the stress you feel triggers a fight-or-flight response, which readies your lungs for action.
This means that your diaphragm constricts, which provides only the upper part of your lungs the oxygen it needs. In contrast, deep, controlled breathing allows you to fully inflate your lungs. This, in turn, oxygenates your blood, slows your heartbeat, and stabilizes your blood pressure.
As a result of stress, you will often feel aches and pains across your body. Stiffness in your shoulders and back is a painful result of lactic acid build up. This, in turn, is a response to your body lacking oxygen to break down glucose in the blood. Regular lactic acid buildup can lead to serious health problems in the long term. In the short-term, though, the muscular discomfort you feel can lead you into further stress.
This is something that Yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation practitioners use controlled breathing to combat.Each of these practices places great value on abdominal breathing.
Most importantly, conscious, regulated respiration makes your brain function in a way that promotes stress reduction. In stressful situations, your brain releases stress hormones into your bloodstream. Your brain seeks to mobilize your body to defend against potential threats. Constant, regular stress can cause some serious mental health difficulties further down the line, which can actually change your brain structure.
“Breathing deeply triggers the neurons in your brain, telling your body to relax,” writes Robert Bell, a regular contributor to Draftbeyond and Writinity. “In turn, [your body’s] relaxation tells your brain to cease releasing stress hormones, [which deescalates] the ‘fight or flight’ response.” Regulated breathing, in essence, tricks your unconscious brain into responding to threat removal.
Like exercise, good breathing techniques require a little practice. The most basic breathing technique is “belly” or “abdominal” breathing.
Simply put, you should get into a comfortable position, either lying, sitting, or standing. Keep one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.Breathe deeply through your nose, ensuring that your “belly” hand is faces outwards. It’s a good idea to breathe deeply at regular intervals and to, monitor your body’s response as you do.
Breathing deeply for 10-20 minutes every day is a good way of getting into a routine. With meditative breathing, soon, you are likely to feel a dramatic improvement in your mood during stressful situations.
Feature Image by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash