Every breath you take sends a message directly to your nervous system, flipping your stress switch on or off. How do you master the ability to manipulate your breathing cycles at will? Start by observing.
A Fact with Wow Factor
Sensors in your lungs detect how fast air enters and leaves. Quick breathing triggers the stress response, whereas slow breathing turns it off. [Source]
Stress Less Tip
Here's what you're up against if you ignore your breathing. Your body transitions to shallow, quick breaths under stress. The longer stress lingers, the weaker your breathing muscles get. You eventually reach a point when deep AND slow breathing becomes physically impossible.
The result? A habit of overbreathing, or chronic hyperventilation, emerges. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an increase in this phenomenon with prolonged mask-wearing. In this case, the overbreathing behavior stems from poor habits developed while wearing a mask, not the mask itself. The habit sticks around even after removing the mask.
Surgeons, for example, may spend eight or more hours a day in a mask. They trained themselves to remain relaxed during masked procedures. Other healthcare workers and the general public began all-day masking without this preparation.
Overbreathing induces confusion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fatigue, restlessness, irritability, agitation, anxiety, muscle twitching, burping, bloating, increased heart rate, and more. It presents telltale signs:
What better way to fix overbreathing than with good old peanut butter and chocolate? When stress hits hard, I wholeheartedly support the use of PB and C.
Sorry to disappoint, but I'm talking about Posture, Breathing technique, and Concentration. Use the above image to help you remember your breathing in stressful situations, though.
Slumped posture with the chin jutting forward tightens chest, abdomen, and mid-back muscles. Tension prevents your rib cage from opening up like a flower, stretching the attached lungs. You need this lung expansion to create the vacuum that pulls air inside. Picture a syringe, which draws up liquid the same way.
Assume a posture that encourages good breathing. Roll your shoulders back and down. Drop your chin and draw your head back so that your ears sit in line with your shoulders. Then, tuck your tailbone to tip your pelvis up without contracting your abs.
To optimize your breathing technique, let's break down the perfect breath even further. The contraction of your diaphragm pushes your abdominal organs down and out. When everything moves as it should, breathing in expands the area above your belly button. Breathing out reverses this physical indicator of good breathing.
Breathing seems simple enough. Yet up to 70% of us don't do it well. A stressed body reveals its flawed breathing through noticeable chest or shoulder movements. Do you ever catch yourself breathing like this?
Instead, imagine someone's hands resting gently on your shoulders. Pull each inhaled breath deep into your belly. Laying down emphasizes the proper movement and makes it feel easy.
Bring on the chocolate, er, concentration! Focus on the path of each breath. Cold air flows in through the nose and down the back of your throat. It expands the lungs and hangs there for a moment before changing direction. Then, warm air moves back up your windpipe, spilling out in a steady stream over your lips or through your nose.
Few things pace your breathing more naturally than music. It provides a rhythm and speed perfect for resetting your mind and body when stressed. Learn a music-based breathing technique that re-strengthens breathing muscles as part of an initiative called The Perfect Breath Project. It includes an ever-growing library of guided breathing exercises on YouTube perfect for beginners to advanced breathwork practice.
Breathe slower. The average person takes about 12-14 breaths per minute. Cut that in half, and you'll notice significant changes in focus, relaxation, and mood within five minutes.
Inhale for a minimum of 3-4 seconds. Stretch the exhale out twice as long, working up to eight seconds or more. Patience makes all the difference!
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