Monday, October 13, 2014

31 Days to Becoming Less Stressed, More Refreshed. Day 13: Deep Breathing and Relaxation

Deep Breathing and Relaxation - The Cozy Nook

Stress has been my “friend” for years, and my quality of life was worsening. I have told some people that I literally felt like I was living with my nerves on the outside of my body. I was in high gear continually, felt fatigued and emotionally sensitive, and had other physical challenges as well.

After seeing the cardiologist this summer and hearing he wants me to have open heart surgery, I decided it was time to read, research, and do all that I can to take care of myself… with the hope that I can avoid or at least postpone my surgery.

Recently I have discovered
the benefits of deep breathing and relaxation.

Deep breathing and relaxation recalibrates me. It resets my mind and body and makes me feel less frantic and more stable.

Stressed people tend to breathe shallow breaths.

“As your fight or flight system activates and your breathing speeds up, you start shallow breathing throughout the day. This means that those with anxiety are shallow breathing for minutes and hours on end, and this creates another problem: hyperventilation.”
Calm Clinic

“Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.”

How often do you purposefully relax, without thinking about something or busying yourself with some task?

Purposeful relaxation sessions make you sit down, without interruptions and information flooding your mind, and just relax. Breathe deeply, clear your mind, and just relax.

Deep breathing really involves your belly, not your chest. If someone told you to take a deep breath, what would you do? My tendency is to breathe with my chest, not with my belly.

Good, deep breathing involves your belly!

When you inhale, your belly should expand. When you exhale, your belly should collapse inward. This is technically called, “diaphragmatic breathing”.

There are various ways you can experience
the benefits of deep breathing.

  • You can do short sessions of deep breathing and quickly reset your system.

“The parasympathetics, on the other hand, control your rest, relax, and digest response. When the parasympathetic system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers as the blood vessels relax, and your body is put into a state of calm and healing.

Putting your body in a parasympathetic state is easy. Pick a count for your inhale and a count for your exhale that is a little longer. I like starting with 2 counts in, and 4 counts out, with a one count pause at the top of the inhale and a one count pause at the bottom of the exhale.”

  • You can do longer sessions of deep breathing and relaxation, between 20 and 30 minutes long. The late Walt Stoll, M.D. was one person who believed that long sessions of relaxation were key to good health and can reverse the effects of stress and chronic illness. This page directs you to some good information regarding that.
  • You can also do exercise sessions, like yoga, which help you focus and strive to keep a steady, relaxed rhythm of breathing. I use an app on my phone called Daily Yoga. Most of the training sessions are between 10 and 30 minutes long, which is nice! There are many free sessions or you can pay and upgrade to get more options. The yoga sessions are focused on relaxing, breathing, and doing stretches/poses.

It is wise to be careful when you are reading about and practicing relaxation techniques. Sometimes the Christian community “throws out the baby with the bath water” because there is a lot of New Age and Eastern Religion/mysticism that can be involved with these types of activities. However, I do believe you can learn to deep breathe and relax without doing things like get in touch with your inner self, chant weird or repetitive phrases, or esteem some other god.

Take Action: When you are feeling stressed today, take a few deep breaths. Try to schedule a longer session of relaxation if you can.

31 Days Less Stressed, More Refreshed 100

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