In today’s world, stress is something that you live with pretty much every minute of every day without even realizing it. Noise, pollution, work, health issues, can all take their toll on your body and your mind (and your soul, too).
Fortunately, there is a simple tool you are already doing, that you can maximize on to improve your health and calm you down.
How the body physically responds to stress:
Acute stress occurs when there is a perceived direct, emanate threat on your life. For example, if you were in a car accident, or chased by an animal, your body would go into an autonomic stress response to get you out of danger. This means that you don’t have to think about it, your body just takes over.
When the body is stressed, muscles automatically tense up, blood vessels constrict and breathing speeds up. This normal ‘fight or flight’ reaction that is hardwired into your nervous system to keep you safe. It’s your body’s way of guarding against injury and pain.
With sudden onset stress, the muscles tense up all at once, but then release their tension when the stress passes. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities.
Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less in a constant state of alert. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders. For example, both a tension-type headache and migraine headache are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head and adrenal fatigue.
Chronic stress puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
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Fortunately, there is a simple way to reduce stress that only takes a minute to learn with a little awareness and practice.
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Your body has been taught to hold the breath when you are under attack. Think about the last time you saw something scary in a movie or heard about a tragedy. My guess is that your first response was to take a big breath and hold it for a few seconds. This is a normal autonomic response that triggers your body to get ready because something bad is about to happen. A response like this is a good thing when you are being chased by a tiger, but can be harmful if you are doing it on a regular basis.
When you are under chronic stress, the breath is constantly being held. Your body thinks that you are repeatedly in imminent danger. Eventually, you get used to this ongoing state of tension and your body adapts to it. This can lead to a long-term increase in blood pressure, anxiety, and many other common ailments that could cause you harm.
Deep breathing is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to reduce stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, you are sending a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Your brain then sends a signal to the rest of your body to loosen your tight muscles, release the tightened blood flow in your veins, and slow your heart rate down.
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Breathing exercises are easy and inexpensive to learn. You can do breathing exercises whenever you want, without any special tools or equipment either. When you need to calm down, take a minute to close your eyes and practice this easy breathing exercise. You may be surprised by how much calmer and open you feel.
Better Breathing Tip: It’s normal to hold your shoulders tense and high. Before starting any breathing technique, take a minute to drop your shoulders down, and close your eyes.
Here’s a super, simple breathing exercise to reduce stress in less than a minute:
When using the Pursed-Lips Breathing, you may find:
- Your breathing down slows down
- Stale, trapped air goes away
- You can reduce blood pressure
- Reduced carbon dioxide in your lungs which gets more oxygen to your cells
- Triggers your brain to calm down
How to do purse-lips breathing:
- Breathe in through your nose (as if you are smelling something) for about 2-4 seconds.
- Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
- Breathe out very slowly through pursed lips, two to three times as long as you breathed in
- Repeat for about a minute
Try this simple technique whenever things feel like they are getting out of hand and you need to take a break. With practice, you can learn to control your breath and stay more open and relaxed in mind, body, and soul on a regular basis.
Sometimes life is complicated. Balancing the complications and stress in life with simple exercises that can instantly calm your nervous system will bring you far more peace than you thought possible.
This is just one breathing tool you can use to reduce stress. There are many other breathing techniques you can use to tap into your inner healer and calm down.