“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
Sometimes Do You Find Yourself Stressed, Anxious, or Uneasy?
A little bit of stress is good for us, but our modern life introduces many triggers of extra stress such as work, family duties, finances, traffic, social media, lack of sleep, etc.. The compound effect of these triggers can move us beyond calm to a state of distress. Did you know that there is a step in-between?!
We may not be able to evade these triggers; however, we all have the potential to approach them from a calmer state! We all have our personal and free stress management tool. What may it be? Our Breath. The caveat is that most individuals do not consciously think about breathing. In fact, the majority of adults use as little as 20-30% of their lung capacity.
By breathing fuller and with awareness we can tap into our bodies natural ‘restful’ state (see below for guidance). Tuning into a ‘restful state’ or the ‘relaxation response’ is how a climber may keep their calm while hanging 300 feet off of a cliff or how an athlete ‘gets in the zone’ while not panicking. Let’s take a look at two perspectives on stress: 1) Eustress and 2) Distress.
Eustress could be considered ‘positive stress’ which is typically short term. It can elicit responses, such as:
-Motivation & Excitement
Distress is where most of my clients and students often associate themselves with on the stress curve. The duration could be Acute (short-term), Episodic Acute (repeated short-term), or Chronic (long-term). The responses of Distress, whether real or perceived, could include:
-Anxiety and Worrying
-Imbalances in the Body and Mind: IBS, insomnia, weight gain, low libido, foggy mind, etc.
The Good News:
Learning to breathe intentionally or consciously can induce a natural relaxation response which promotes a sense of calm in the mind and body.
The American Institute of Stress mentions a few of the positive effects of stimulating your relaxation response:
• Your breathing becomes slower
• Your blood pressure decreases
• Your heart beats slower
• Your muscles relax
How Do I Stimulate The 'Relaxation Response'?
Find a comfortable seat. If possible, don’t lean back into a chair or wall. Close the eyes or bring your gaze to the tip of your nose. Place your hands on your lower ribs. Take a slow inhalation through the nose and feel your ribs expand outwards as the breath moves in. Steadily exhale all of the air out of the lungs while softening the shoulders. To begin:
• Inhale for a count of four expanding the ribs into the hands
• Pause at the top of the breath for a count of four
• Exhale all the air out for a count of six or eight
Repeat this at least three times. To finish, let the hands soften into the lap and return to your natural breath. Bring awareness back to your surroundings. You may notice any noises, the temperature of the air, or anything that stimulates your senses. Gently open the eyes and go about your day! Feel free to do this whenever and wherever you would like!
Pro Tip: Start Small. Aim for 60 seconds to maybe 3 minutes of breath practice. With time, it will be easier to breathe fully and more enjoyable to sit in stillness for more extended periods. Intend to be consistent by doing this practice daily. Also, be patient with yourself. The process of decreasing stress is not linear! Take it day by day and breath by breath.