How to stress less in 30 seconds
‘If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath'
~ Amit Ray
We've all heard it or said it, more often in a state of worry, frustration, anger, or to calm the kids or our nearest and dearest...
'take a breathe'
It's only been in the past couple of years I've realised HOW potent this simple act is.
You may be thinking, 'Of course, it's automatic, it's the basis of life, what more?'
It's just that.
Breathing is so automatic and instinctual it's easy to take this healing force of nature for granted.
When was the last time you took a moment to really notice HOW you breathe?...
Take a moment now.
Do you breathe through your nose or through your mouth? Does your tummy or does your chest raise when you breathe? Do you have a shallow or deep breathe? Is your breathe long or short? How often do you sigh or yawn? Then, for those of you with children, how do your children breathe?
Your answers will give you clues as to whether your breathe is optimising or diminishing your wellbeing. (And if you or your children have difficulty breathing optimally and haven't explored a root cause, perhaps see a health practitioner who can help).
Among many healing attributes our breathe also helps us tolerate stress, improve our brain function and increase our energy reserves.
Movement is the mechanism, the essence of who we are as human beings and our moving breathe helps enable this essential mechanism.
In Hindu, prana refers to breathe & 'life force'.
We know this but it's easy to neglect our breathe, yet our breathe may be the missing link to very simply managing our full & often stressful lives.
When I learnt that shallow breathing from the chest and mouth breathing initiates the sympathetic nervous system i.e. the fight and flight or stress response and that deep, diaphragmatic breathe or through the nostrils initiates the parasympathetic nervous system i.e. rest and digest - I started paying close attention.
Can it be that simple? Yes.
If we allow it, how we breathe has the power to mitigate stress in an instant. It can bring us into the present moment, quieten our minds, give objectivity to our thoughts, change our state of mind and importantly allow us to enjoy & sense each precious moment.
A friend and colleague, Silvia Gonzalez-Quinones at the fabulous, Be Alive Physiotherapy has this analogy,
'Our breathe is the gateway to the nervous system'. It's true.
When 90% of illness can relate to stress (in its many different forms), a quick hack to reset our nerves (& stress) can be the golden ticket.
When our nervous system is balanced i.e. in homeostasis, our health and wellbeing elevates. We;
- tolerate stress better.
- have more energy.
- have a stronger immune system.
- digest and absorb our food better.
- enhance our brains performance.
- nurture our hormones and metabolism.
- sleep more soundly.
- are better role models for our children.
- are more present for our children, friends and family.
- are happier & so much more.
In doses, stress is good for us, however in todays world it can be unrelenting. For example;
- stimulants such as coffee and alcohol,
- parenting with little support,
- our subconscious or inherited emotional beliefs
- an imbalanced microbiome (gut microbes) or
- environmental and inherited toxins & more.
Along with other emotional and mental stressors, these can all place stress on our body at any one time. So if we can manage stressors that can easily be controlled / managed in any given moment, it's worth doing.
Three quick 30 second stress hacks using the breathe...
1. 3 deep breathes.
Take 3 long, deep breathes through your nostrils, into your diaphragm, (so it distends), and with each breathe lasting approximately 10 seconds e.g. in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, out for 3 seconds.
2. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise by Dr Andrew Weil:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
3. While doing an activity on 'auto-pilot' try to come back into the present moment by focusing on HOW you breathe. Long, slow, deep breathes through the nose, into the tummy and out e.g. next time you're driving, walking, listening to the kids, in a meeting, packing lunch boxes, folding washing etc.
Try one now. Choose one of the three above and give it a go.
Then importantly, when you finish take 5 seconds to notice how you FEEL. What do you notice?
Other ideas that take a bit longer and I love;
- Kundalini yoga & other practices
- Running with Aspire to Run and
There are lots more. If this feels right and you know it can help, make it happen, it can take 30 seconds and feels great.
"When we breathe, we feel. When we feel we heal"