Under stress and anxiety, the body tenses up. It freezes. It stops what it was doing. It can halt or slow down even your basic body functions such as digestion, consistent blood flow, and your cognitive processes.
Yikes! Stress is a Zombie maker. Living under stress and anxiety means you don’t even have access to the emotional resources you need to stay well.
Suffice it to say that stress, anxiety, fear, drama, worry, etc. all have disastrous effects on our health – both physical and emotional. But the subject of this post isn’t the negative effects. Rather, It’s ONE simple, positive remedy. A fix.
Quick Fix for Stress and Anxiety
Here’s a quick tip to stop the negative effects of stress in their tracks.
There. That’s it.
No, of course you don’t. You didn’t do it, did you? And, why not?
Because breathing techniques are too simple. They can’t work.
Or, can they?
What Breathing Exercises Do, Physically
- Deep breathing exercises act like a switch to change the body’s reaction from the stress response (the sympathetic nervous system) to the relaxation response (the parasympathetic nervous system).
- Relaxed breathing restores consistent blood flow, a healthy heart rate, and a balanced respiration rate (among other benefits).
- Even breathing restores a sense of balance and equilibrium to the body.
These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. And, we’ve not yet addressed the emotional wellness benefits. That’s for another day – another post.
One Simple Way to Start a Simple Breathing Practice
If breathing exercises are so simple, why don’t we do them?
Anything that we don’t do, but wish we did, needs to circumvent the thinking process. Doing that takes habitual behavior. A habit just happens. It no longer takes thought or planning.
Here’s an easy way to get that going.
Have you ever heard of chaining?
I first read about this technique in relationship to BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habit work. More recently, I’ve heard of the same concept referred to as stacking – coming from James Clear. Either way, the premise is simple.
Take something you’re already doing (an already established habit) and ADD a new behavior to it.
For example, if you brush your teeth in the morning (I hope so!), you could add a simple breathing technique afterward. Here are a few other things that you may wish to use to trigger this new behavior.
- Right after waking in the morning.
- Right after sitting down at your desk or wherever you begin your day.
- Right after your meal-time prayer.
- Right after getting dressed for the day.
- Right after getting the mail from your mailbox.
You get the idea.
You can tag this new habit onto any activity that you already do on a regular basis. Be sure to make this a conscious decision. Writing down this commitment is a good way to start.
One Simple Breathing Exercise to Try
Here’s a basic breathing practice that’s easy to implement.
With eyes open or closed (your preference) take a deep breath to begin. Then breathe normally. Count as you inhale and count as you exhale, trying to make them even.
If you naturally inhale for the count of four, then exhale for the count of four. You get it. Easy!
It’s the focus on the breath that stimulates your body to relax and feel a sense of balance and wellness. Pay attention to how the breath feels coming in and going out of your body. Do what you need to do to bring your awareness into your body rather than into your head.
Apply this even breathing exercise for just a few minutes. Stretch out this practice as time permits.
NEXT STEP: Once this is an established practice, you may wish to ramp up your results a bit. Make the exhale slightly longer than the inhale. For example, inhale for the count of 4 and then exhale for the count of 6. Gradually work up to this, and if you feel dizzy at any time, just go back to even breathing. This is a way to invite the relaxation response at a deeper level.
Like this tip? You may wish to check out these articles, too.
What’re your favorite deep breathing practices?
When do you do them?
Have you made them a habit?
What makes you feel more like a human and less like a zombie?
Please share your experiences here!