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Deep Belly Breathing Exercise For Stress Management By Tinia Nassif

If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress. But you have a lot more control than you might think.

Here’s how to lower your stress levels with a breathing exercise with Tinia Nassif, Positive Psychology and Stress Management Coach.

What is Stress?

Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.

Our nervous system is made of two modes: the fight or flight response, which is the stress mode, and the rest and digits mode, which is the relaxing mode.

The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee. These responses are evolutionary adaptations to increase the chances of survival in threatening situations.

The heart and blood vessels comprise the two elements of the cardiovascular system that work together in providing nourishment and oxygen to the organs of the body. The activity of these two elements is also coordinated in the body’s response to stress. Acute stress—stress that is momentary or short-term such as meeting deadlines, being stuck in traffic, or suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident—causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle, with the stress hormones acting as messengers for these effects.

In addition, the blood vessels that direct blood to the large muscles and the heart dilate, thereby increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body and elevating blood pressure. This is also known as the fight or flight response. Once the acute stress episode has passed, the body returns to its normal state.

Chronic stress, or constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.

Effects of Deep Belly Breathing Exercise

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax. 

Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises.

For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow "chest breathing" seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.

Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm's range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn't get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.

Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.

How To Perform Deep Belly Breathing Exercise

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.

  • Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  • Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  • Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  • Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
  • Count the time for each inhale and exhale. Make sure they are even.
  • Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

For maximum stress relief, add mindfulness to your workout. While simply engaging in breathing exercises will help you relieve stress, adding a mindfulness component can benefit you even more. As with meditation, mindful exercise requires being fully engaged in the present moment, paying attention to how your body feels right now, rather than your daily worries or concerns. Instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise, focus on the sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your movement.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Make sure to check out Mint Basil Market’s wide range of essential oils and diffusers that can help to naturally take a load of stress off your shoulders.

November 03, 2021 — Mint Basil Team
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