Health & Medical Anxiety

Deep Breathing - Triggering the Relaxation Response

Learning how to manage stress is not about becoming skilled at when to avoid or escape the pressures we live with today.
It is about gaining the knowledge on how to recognize when the body reacts to these pressures and learning the skills needed to reduce the negative effects of them.
Utilizing stress management skills can help you control your health in a positive way with less time spent at the doctor's office.
The fight or flight response is your bodies reaction to perceived threats or danger.
This response triggers your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol which speed up the heart rate, slow digestion, and contract muscles giving your body a burst of energy and strength.
In times of war this stress response could be appropriate, but in the average person's life it might be harmful to their over-all health in the long run.
When the fight or flight response is persistent and occurs repeatedly over time, our immune systems weaken and our ability to fight disease diminishes.
Some examples of the long-term effects of stress are:
  • Chronic head aches
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Weight loss
  • Sleeplessness
  • Constipation
  • Stroke
  • Crohn's disease
  • Decreased sex drive
Breathing deeply could be the single most effective way to stay calm.
We all breathe, but many people breathe the wrong way: shallow, fast, and high in the chest.
This kind of breathing is restrictive and actually increases anxious feelings.
Many people also hold their breath when they are tense and this also intensifies feelings of anxiety.
By becoming aware of your breathing, you can counteract the effects of the fight or flight response quickly.
Notice when you are holding your breath, take in a deep breath by expanding your diaphragm and see how this feels.
Slow, deep breathing triggers a relaxation response calming the body and focusing the mind.
It increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, raising your performance potential.
The relaxation response also helps to lower blood pressure.
To find out if you are breathing correctly try this: stand up and put one hand on your chest, the other on your abdomen just below your rib cage, and breathe deeply.
If the hand on your chest moves, your breathing is too shallow.
For the best results, you want to make the hand on your abdomen move.
Inhale deeply while you slowly count to five.
Try to get your abdomen to expand instead of your chest.
If you have trouble breathing this way, try doing it while lying on your back.
With a little practice and patience, you will be able to shift into a deep breathing pattern automatically.
Once you learn the technique of deep breathing, you can do it anytime or anywhere.
It only takes a few deep breaths to trigger the relaxation response, and no one will know what occurred but you.

Leave a reply