I want to share a simple technique with you that has been titled “The Super Stress Buster”. Our lives are filled with stress and we are often told we need to “manage” stress for health reasons. What does that even mean???? For the most part, it’s impossible to eliminate our stress. It’s just there – daily tasks to be done, bills to be paid, kids needing our attention, deadlines at work, sickness and injuries, the list goes on. We need simple solutions that are quick and easy. Solutions that don’t add to our stress – haha!
The American Institute of Stress says there is one “Super Stress Buster” that is so easy even kids can do it – BREATHING! Although breathing is an autonomous function, we need to be taught to do it properly to experience it’s relaxing effects. Most often we take shallow breaths that keep us feeling uptight.
Recently research has shown that in our tech-crazy world we actually HOLD our breath. Surprisingly there is something called “screen apnea”. We actually stop breathing while working on our computers or smart phones! Simple activities such as texting and emailing will cause this to happen and it leads to added tension and stress. Learning simple techniques to help us relax and rest is key.
Our breath is the gateway to activating our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that is responsible for calming and healing effects. Shallow chest breathing (as opposed to deep belly breathing) activates our sympathetic nervous system. This initiates our “fight or flight” response and creates higher heart rates, excess cortisol and more tension in our bodies. Slow breathing does the opposite and studies have shown that it reduces stress, blood pressure and heart rates. Deep breathing gets more nourishing oxygen into our bodies. Blood that is rich in oxygen will help you feel better, and give you more energy.
Here are 2 techniques to master your breathing, reconnecting your body and mind and stopping the stress response.
- Start lying down or in an easy seated position. Make sure your spine is straight and your abdomen is not restricted.
- Close your eyes. Relax your face and body, and breathe naturally through your nose.
- Place one hand on your lower abdomen and place your other hand on your chest
- Begin to focus your awareness on your breath as it moves in and out of your body through your nose.
- Inhale through your nose and feel your belly lift followed by the expansion of your ribs. Your breath fills right up till you feel it up to the back of your throat.
- Exhale completely feeling your chest contracts and your belly lower.
- Continue at your own pace and gradually let the 3 parts of the breath flow. Inhale and your belly lifts, your ribs expand and your chest rises. Exhale and your chest drops, your ribs contract and your belly softens.
- Using full inhalations and exhalations and repeat for as long as you feel comfortable
Teddy Bear Breathing (Three-Part Breath for kids)
Teaching your kids how to calm themselves down by using their breath is a valuable tool.
- Have your child lay on their back and place one hand on their chest and place their favourite teddy bear on their belly button.
- Have them close their eyes and relax your whole body. Breath in slowly through their nose. The teddy bear should slowly rise, but their chest should not.
- When they have taken a full deep breath, hold it, count to three then slowly breathe out. Repeat a few times, until they feel relaxed
Enjoy the relaxation of deep breathing. Even a two minute breathing break will make you feel better. Just try it!