Life can often feel stressful, demands are placed upon us and this can feel heavy and overwhelming at times. Many of us need to wear a variety of hats throughout the day, and flitting between roles can soon take its toll. So, it’s understandable that stress is a common reason people seek therapy. At times, stress can be a helpful thing it can help us feel motivated and energised, to work towards goals, and meet targets. However, stress that is chronic and relentless can lead to physical, emotional,problems, which quickly impact on our daily life, relationships and those around us.
For many, the issue is not about recognising stress, but about knowing what to do about it. Living busy lives and playing different roles makes it difficult for us to even find time to manage stress. However, with stress and its subsequent effects learning to pay attention to the way we breathe, is a quick and effective way to help you manage in the moment.
Breathing becomes shallow and fast when we’re stressed, and sometimes we can even stop breathing (temporarily of course). As a result, our bodies don’t function as well as they could. Shallow breathing does not allow oxygen to get throughout our bodies, leading to other anxiety and stress symptoms such as heart palpitations, and muscle tension. Learning to breathe deeply into your midsection will help. It does so by drawing oxygen to your muscles and brain; this supports your parasympathetic nervous system, who’s role is to rest and calm down. Deep breathing like this, gives your body the necessary oxygen that it needs, and will help you feel in control, keeping you focused on feeling calm rather than focusing on whatever is stressing you out.
Here is a step-by-step guide for deep breathing:
1. Begin by exhaling all your air out.
2. Inhale through your nose to a count of 4.
3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
4. Exhale completing through your mouth to a count of 8.
5. Repeat steps #2-4 two more times for a total of three breaths.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is simple, fast, and effective. When deep breathing, remember to have your abdomen rise when you breathe in, and fall when you breathe out. Aim to practice this exercise once a day as its impact on stress levels will gain power with repetition. Anywhere will do.