Our breathing is vital to our ability to live, but even more than that it has so many other benefits too.
When we spend a little time everyday learning to control our breathing in the way our bodies were meant to breathe, we can help prevent all kinds of physical and psychological conditions.
So, let’s first explore the purpose of breathing.
When we breathe in we oxygenate our blood and when we breathe out we expel unwanted toxins, specifically carbon dioxide from our body.
What happens if we don’t breathe properly all of the time?
If we chest breathe all of the time, we begin to stop using some of the capacity in our lungs. Over time our lungs don’t work as well as they should and other muscles in our body try to compensate for this. For example, many of my clients will note feeling lots of tension in the face, neck and back muscles when feeling particularly anxious or stressed. (See yesterday’s video for an example of chest breathing).
If you’re reading this and recognising yourself as someone who breathes fairly shallow breaths, do not fear. Doing simple breathing exercises every day can change your breathing and you can reap the rewards.
So, what are the rewards and benefits of breathing deeper?
How do I manage my stress and anxiety?
Deep breathing is incredible for helping you to manage and cope with more stressful situations. If you find yourself in a situation that results in the activation of your fight/flight response, adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones pumping fast around your body, your heart rate increased, your stomach churning, and all you want to do is get away fast, then deep breathing could help to change your bodies physical response to whatever stressor you’re are facing.
In our bodies we have the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are feeling stressed, angry or anxious the sympathetic nervous system is activated and results in the release of stress hormones that are intended to help give us strength and speed so that we can physically fight or run away from danger.
That was great for us when we were cavemen and women living in the jungle and our only stressor was a polar bear or a tiger in the woods.
Not so great when our stressors can be so much more prolonged and not life threatening such as that work colleague or acquaintance who is being nasty for no known reason.
We can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system response through deep breathing. This works in the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system by slowing our heart rate, reducing blood pressure and slowing down our racing mind. In effect it puts the stress response away and calms you.
Practicing using deep breathing every day has huge benefits from helping us to be physically fitter so we can exercise more intensely, to helping us reduce the amount of times we might catch a cold or the flu by strengthening our lymphatic system. There’s even research that demonstrates it slows down the rate of aging by increasing hormones directly related to anti-aging. It helps our digestive system and is also great to help alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome induced by stress or anxiety. When we breathe deeper we also relax our muscles more which alleviates tension.
It isn’t a quick fix though.
We need to give ourselves time to actively focus on breathing deeply every day to get our body into the habit of using deep breathing naturally. Through practice we can even expand our lung capacity. It is best to practice when we are feeling calm, and this way, if we ever feel anxious or stressed, it’s much easier for us to remember our techniques and use them to help us in the moment too.
I offer a wide range of breathing technique tutorial videos in my new membership programme. If you’re interested I am currently looking for some trial members to test out my new programme. Email me at Tania.Taylor@live.co.uk to express an interest in joining.
It’s important to note that if you are experiencing mental health conditions that are regularly inducing the stress response and shallow breathing, deep breathing alone may not be enough. This is where my role comes in.
Through 1:1 sessions over video link or face to face I aim to help you overcome the challenges that are causing you to be in an almost constant state of fear and equip you with the right tools that work for you so that you don’t have to worry about your stress and anxiety anymore.
If you want to find out more, I offer a free 20 minute initial consultation appointment over the phone, you can book an appointment via email at Tania.Taylor@live.co.uk or by phone 07442 169 033 and together we can work to get you back in control.