Stress can cause a variety of changes in our bodies. An increased heart rate, for example, can cause faster, more shallow breathing, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood quicker than normal. Low carbon dioxide in your blood can cause psychological effects such as increased feelings of anxiety and fear and, ultimately, stress. One way to decrease the effects of stress is by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood by practicing proper breathing techniques.
Deep diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing engages your diaphragm so that your lungs use a full range of motion when breathing. This allows our lungs to get the full benefit of the exchange of incoming oxygen and outgoing carbon dioxide. Each of our tiny blood vessels then get a chance to take advantage of the oxygenated air, carrying this oxygen to cells within the body. This can stabilize your heart beat as well as stabilize or lower blood pressure, effectively reducing stress.
Begin your deep breathing by sitting in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Inhale slowly through your nose using your diaphragm. Your stomach should expand as you inhale with little or no chest movement. At complete inhalation, try to hold your breath for about 6 to 12 seconds. Next, exhale slowly through your mouth using your stomach to push the air out. A good goal to begin with is 10 minutes of deep breathing a day.
By practicing deep breathing techniques on a regular basis, you gain other benefits.
- Reduce the risk factors for heart disease
- Reduce chances of cancer
- Helps reduce cravings for processed carbohydrates (junk food)
- Improves quality of sleep
- Improves your mood level
- Improves mental focus and concentration
I’ve found that I have a hard time remembering to do my diaphragmatic breathing on a daily basis. These are some of the ideas I came up with to remember to take advantage of this inexpensive and effective stress reducer.
- Before getting out of bed in the morning and again at night
- While doing yoga
- Set your alarm on your phone for specific times throughout the day
- Anytime you visit the restroom
- Walking to and from work to your car
Take a minutes right now to practice a few deep breaths, if you can’t dedicate the full 10 minutes, that’s okay. I find that I can easily squeeze in three to four deep breathes at multiple times through out the day. Enjoy your less stress day!!