Stress can be physiological or psycho-emotional, and it can come from our environment or life circumstances. The body mostly follows the mind, not the other way around.
If we can learn to reduce our stress, by focusing on rebalancing our lives, our immune system will reap the health benefits.
In times of stress, our body releases more inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. This starts a chemical cascade in our protection system and the body and brain have to try and work out what defense system is required to stop an attack on the body. Keeping stress under control is important for your long-term health.
The parasympathetic (relaxation) response of our nervous system and turning off the
Sympathetic ( think fight, flight, freeze or hide) response is key here. The parasympathetic system functions optimally when it doesn’t have to contend with the stress response (sympathetic).. It’s the system that works to control digestion, reproduction, rest and can help slow down breathing, and heart rate.
Controlled breathing has a positive effect on the body by:
Lowering cortisol levels
Lowering blood pressure
Improving autonomic (the automatic system in our body that works behind the scene) response to physical and mental stress
Improving arterial blood flow
stimulating the lymphatic system (Detoxifies the body)
balancing levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
Here are two of my favorite breathing techniques I use to help me reduce my anxiety and stress.
Deep belly breathing
Deep belly breathing can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes.
How to do belly breathing:
Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your shoulders relaxed.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
Inhale through your nose for about two-four seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
Purse your lips, as if you’re about to blow out a candle, and press gently on your stomach as you exhale slowly for about two-four seconds.
Repeat these steps several times for the best results. Once you’ve mastered belly breathing, you can try a more advanced technique.
The name of this technique says it all. This one’s all about inhaling and exhaling to a certain count.
How to do 4-7-8 breathing
Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
Repeat three to five times or until you feel calm.