Stress affects us all. There are lots of effective ways to deal with stressful thoughts and situations. Prayer and EFT are two of my very favorite. But there are times when you need to calm down, very quickly, in the moment and one of the most effective strategies is breath work.
I learned about a type of breathing technique used by Navy Seals and first responders to remain calm in the midst of a stressful situation. If you were not aware, our breathing is so closely linked to our emotional state, that changing it can practically negate anxiety completely.
Whenever we are stressed or anxious, our fight or flight response kicks in. It will be triggered when we encounter any type of stress, whether it is a dangerous, physical situation or a problem with your boss or a loved one. Once stressed the body can take up to 45 minutes before it returns to a normal state. Since there seems to be an endless supply of all sorts of triggers that can keep us locked in stressful states for long periods of time, learning a simple deep breathing technique can make a huge difference.
Any form of deep, conscious breathing can interrupt the fight or flight response and trigger calming alpha brain waves that restore mind-body harmony. Box-breathing is very simple:
Inhale, through your nose, using your diaphragm, while counting to 5. Fill your lungs to maximum capacity; hold for count of 5, then exhale slowly, through your nose, to a slightly longer count of 5. Diaphramatic breathing is also called belly breathing and it is where you expand your belly as you fill your lungs as opposed to shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears. That is shallow, stress breathing.
Notice the exhale is to be longer than the inhale. There is a reason for this. It causes the vagus nerve which runs from the neck down through your diaphragm to relay a message to your brain to turn down your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and turn up your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system.
Once you are comfortable with the 5 count breathing technique, you can alter the ratio between inhalation and exhalation to trying to exhale to a longer slow count of 8. Then you can increase the ratios to 8:16 or 10:20 and more. But you don’t have to – as long as you become aware in the moment and take control over your breathing, you will experience relief.
Would you try the box-breathing technique the next time you are stressed?
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