Although it may sound silly, breathing is a key element to stress relief. Normally when we breathe, we tend to do so rather shallowly. This limits the amount of oxygen that gets into our system. The brain interprets this lack of oxygen as a sign that danger is present which naturally increases anxiety while the body waits for the “bad thing” to occur. This fight or flight mechanism is extremely useful for short term situations where survival is at stake. However, over the long term, this process needlessly puts stress on the body.
Conversely, deeper breathing promotes greater oxygen flow into the body. This tells the body that the crisis has passed. Anxiety levels reduce and relaxation occurs. It becomes much easier to focus and to problem solve.
At first, this exercise might seem rather mechanical. Keep practicing whenever you can and deep breathing will begin to come naturally. Practice deep breathing anytime you feel anxious. Just take deep slow breaths until the anxiety subsides. You may also use deep breathing while meditating.
- First watch your chest as you take a breath. When you inhale does your chest fall and when you exhale does your chest rise? If so, you are shallow breathing.
- For Deep Breathing: This time, as you take a slow breath of air, push your stomach out. Feel the air filling up your stomach as you inhale. Watch your stomach expand.
- Then, as you exhale, squeeze your stomach so that all of the air is exhaled. Watch your stomach fall.
- Keep practicing deep breathing. Try to take slow steady breaths. No gasping or breath holding.