I have talked about stress and its effects on the nervous system in a couple of previous articles, and whilst this is information is great, I thought maybe in this article I could give a simple solution to support change from being in a stressed state, to being calm and in control – who doesn’t want that!?
When our body perceives stress (in any form) we always exhibit a similar response, known as “fight or flight”. Some signs of this include: raised blood pressure, shallow breathing, belly aches and poor digestion, anxiety and poor sleep, tight muscles in the neck/shoulders/low back/hamstrings/calves, decreased libido, fatigue… the list is almost endless, and it gets longer, the more that we are in a “fight or flight” state.
One of the simplest methods to start reducing our time in a stressed state, is to breathe! Now of course that sounds ridiculous, we all breathe… but not all breaths were created equal. The breathing I want to talk about specifically is abdominal/belly breathing. For those unfamiliar, abdominal/belly breathing is achieved by breathing in right down into the bottom of our lungs, which basically makes it look as though we are sticking out our tummy. The breath out is then released by drawing the tummy in. This may feel very different to the way that you may usually breathe, especially if you are a smoker or feeling stressed. Just try it and notice any changes – maybe just 8 breaths in and out.
This technique is as old as the hills, with breathing techniques being used in ancient traditions for millennia. The science behind this method is sound as well, because by using this breath, we stimulate a very important nerve (called the vagus nerve) which in-turn stimulates our relaxed and healing “rest and digest” response – the opposite to the stress response of “fight or flight”! When practiced regularly this practice can have a real effect on our stress levels, both emotionally and physically. The best thing about this practice is that you can do it anywhere, any time!
Having been a big fan of this breathing practice for a few years now, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of it. Next time you’re feeling a little stressed or overloaded, why not give it a go?