Breathe the Stress Away
“Oh, well, I think it might be stress related” we often hear our clients admit. Sometimes we have to tell them that this is probably the case. Stress plays a big role in pain and health related issues. So what can you do about this at home?
We naturally go into Fight or Flight mode in response to stress or perceived stress, whether it is physical or psychological. Our Sympathetic Nervous System will increase the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate to deliver more oxygen to vital organs. Our senses sharpen, we become more alert, the airways open up and our muscles tense, sugar and fat are released into the blood stream. But when the opposing function, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, doesn’t kick in to regulate it like in long term stress, we can end up with tense muscles (especially neck & shoulders), headaches, heart burn, diarrhoea or constipation, trouble sleeping and at risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease.
Whatever might be already going on in your body, stress of any form could make it worse.
Good news is we can help regulate that stress response with our breath. Controlling our breath has a direct effect on the nervous system, and slow, long mindful breaths helps to switch back on the Parasympathetics and balance things out.
Notice whether you have any discomfort anywhere. Are your hands, jaw , or tongue tense, your forehead frowning or do you feel tight in the neck, shoulders or between the shoulder blades? Thoughts bouncing around your head like a ball in a pinball machine?
Now close your eyes and bring your awareness to how you are breathing. Is it short, shallow & fast or long, slow & deep?
Start with a long, slow and even inhalation for 5 seconds, then exhale long, slow and even. Continue this for about 5 minutes.
Then, expand your awareness to beyond your skin and into the room. As you breathe in, ask ‘Where does the breath come from?’ and as you breathe out, ‘Where does the breath go to?’ Continue this for another 5 minutes.
Scan your body again and notice if there is difference in your body and your thoughts.
Chances are you’ll feel more relaxed. Imagine what sort of impact this breathing would have on you if you did it every day. Your breath is always available to you.