Breathing properly is one of the simplest ways to drain away tension and relieve your stress. By simply changing your breathing patterns, you can rapidly induce a greater state of relaxation. If you can control the way you breathe, you have a powerful tool to reduce bodily tension. You can breathe your anxiety away.
Most likely, you take breathing for granted (am I right?). You’ve been breathing for years, you’d think by now you would have it figured out. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as “breathing badly,” and it can take many forms. You can be a chest and shoulder breather, bringing air into your lungs by expanding your chest cavity and raising your shoulders. This description often fits people who have a touch of vanity and opt for never sticking their tummy out when they breathe.
You can also be a breath holder, stopping your breathing entirely when you’re distracted or lost in thought. Both are inefficient, stress-producing forms of breathing, and when you are under stress your breathing patterns deteriorate even more. To make things worse, once your breathing goes array, you feel even more stressed out. Have I gotten your full attention on how important proper breathing is yet? OK good!
Why Change it Now?
When you feel stressed, your breathing becomes faster and shallower. When you breathe this way, your body reacts in this way:
- Less oxygen reaches your bloodstream
- Your blood vessels constrict
- Less oxygen reaches your brain
- Your heart rate and your blood pressure go up
- You feel light-headed, shaky, and more tense
Those cavemen ancestors of ours knew how to breathe. They didn’t have to deal with the IRS, delayed plane travel, or that boss from hell (and I’ve had a few of them believe me). Today very few people know how to breathe right. Generally opera singers, stage actors, musicians, and a few yoga instructors breathe effectively. The rest of us have lost the art completely.
All Is Not Lost!
For a short period in your life, you did get the whole breathing thing right. As a baby, you breathed beautifully. Your belly rose and fell in a relaxed way. But then you grew up and let life and stress take away that relaxed breath. Luckily, you can re-teach yourself to breathe properly again!
Yes, breathing is a way to get air into your lungs. But that’s not all it’s good for. In past times, breathing had an elevated status. Religious groups and sects believed that a calming breath replenished the soul as well as soothed the body. The word ruach (what a yucky word) in Hebrew and the word pneuma in Greek have double meanings, meaning both breath and spirit.
There you go not one, but two lessons learned today. Now let’s take today to focus in on how we’re breathing, and begin shutting anxiety down slowly!
Anxiety solutions expert/The Anxious Athlete