Did you know that the way we breathe can make or break the way we cope? There are many different ways that breath work can help decrease stress and reduce anxiety. There are many different breathing techniques that one can use to feel better during different times of stress and worry. What I love about breathing as stress and anxiety reduction, is that it can be used anywhere at anytime. It can be used by people of any age.
There is something called shape breathing, which is great for anyone, but it is really good for kids. Basically, you trace the sides of a shape and inhale-pause-exhale which helps keep your breath on target and slow. Another way to keep your breathing on target is my practicing or pretending to blow bubbles. You can’t blow good large bubbles without a controlled breath. Again this is a way for kids, as well as adults, to relate and understand learn how to breathe.
There is something called belly breathing where you have one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. You breathe in through your nose and and feel your chest rise. You breathe out through your mouth like you are whistling and feel like you are pushing all the air out of your lungs. This is a wonderful way to slow your breathing down. The other breathing exercise that I love is 4-7-8 breathing. With this exercise, you inhale through your nose for a count of 4, pause for a count of 7, and exhale for a count of 8. This can feel a little overwhelming at first, but it really is an easy way to relax.
Why is it that breathing reduces stress and anxiety? When we are anxious, our amygdala (sympathetic) is fired up. The amygdala is the center of our brain that gets us ready to fight or run. When our amygdala gets fired up our breathing increases, our heart races, our muscles tense, our digestion changes, our energy get reserved for the fight or flight response. When we slow our breathing down, we tell our brain that there is no danger. This changes the part of our brain that gets fired up to the parasympathetic system which starts the relaxation response.
Breathing is a great way to calm ourselves during periods of stress or anxiety, but it is also something to do when we are in a calm space. I believe that if we practice this way of breathing during periods of calm, it will be our go to response during periods of anxiety and stress. I don’t always take my own advice and practice breathing during periods of calm, but breathing is my go to for when I am stressed and anxious! Do you practice breathing exercises during periods of calm, periods of stress, both, or not at all?