Have you ever been in a situation where you were angry or anxious, your chest tightens, and all of a sudden you realize that you have forgotten to breathe? I think we have all been there at some point. We let the stress of our day-to-day activities consume our mind—we forget how to relax, and the increased level of stress can be harmful to our bodies. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, stop what we’re doing, and breathe deeply.
The automatic act of deep breathing comes so naturally to babies, yet as adults many of us do not breath properly or to our maximum potential. Our constant on-the-go mindset in this fast paced life has led to increased anxiety, which results in a rapid heartbeat and quick short breaths from the chest instead of from our lower lungs. Many of us tend to reach for unhealthy “quick fixes” such as comfort food or alcohol to manage stress; these only temporarily mask the issues and can have other negative consequences.
Stress management is crucial for a happier, healthier lifestyle, and deep breathing is a simple, yet powerful tool that can be implemented anywhere at any time. When you breathe deeply and slowly, you reverse the stress response in your body by slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming your body and mind.
Take just a few moments each day to tune into your breath; the resultant reduction in stress will yield additional benefits such as muscle relaxation, increased energy, enhanced blood circulation, improved digestion, deeper sleep, and an overall heightened sense of peace and happiness.
Focus on consciously breathing slowly and rhythmically by engaging your abdominal muscles and diaphragm instead of the muscles in the upper chest and neck. Inhale through your nose for 5 seconds as you bring air deep down into your lungs. Picture your lungs expanding. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds. Continue to do this several times, and you will immediately notice an enhanced state of relaxation.
Helpful Tips to Incorporate and Enhance a Deep Breathing Practice
- Set aside the time - Carve out specific times in the day to practice deep breathing. A great way to start is by taking 5 minutes first thing in the morning and 5 minutes prior to bedtime. You will begin your day with a sense of energy and peace and unwind with a sense of relaxation for a deep night sleep.
- Take a computer break - Work-load building up? Stressed about a project? Staring at the screen for too long? This would be a good time to take a computer break, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. You will clear your mind, reenergize, and more productive.
- Take advantage of traffic - No one likes to sit in traffic; but rather than getting angry, take long, deep breaths, and you will feel much better.
- Use Daily Reminders - Place sticky notes around your house and the office with a reminder to “Just breathe.” It’s always helpful to have a visual reminder.
- Place a hand on your abdomen during the practice - Notice your stomach rise and fall during each breath.
- Add some peaceful background noise - Play calming music or nature sounds during the practice to achieve a deeper state of relaxation.
We can’t always control the stressors in our life. We CAN, however, learn to manage the negative emotions in a more positive way by focusing on our breath. As you incorporate deep breathing practice into your daily life, in time it will become a natural habit.
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”--Etty Hillesum