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Breathing to Combat Stress

Breathing to Combat Stress

Practically everyone we know is stressed out. Whether from the onslaught of information we are exposed to from our handheld devices, the constant demands of work, family life, kids, responsibilities add up.

Combine these items with the frustrating urban environment of traffic, pollution, and noise and it’s no wonder that modern life does harm to your mind and body. Now for the good news: there are ways to combat stress and one of the best is through breathing.

Your autonomic nervous system has two systems:

  • Parasympathetic - known as the “fight or flight”
  • Sympathetic - known as the “rest and digest”

Which system do you think modern humans operate in more? You’re right if you guessed the parasympathetic. This elevated stress level does damage to the body. While exposure to acute stress like a hard work project or exercise can make you smarter and stronger, the main issue stems out of the fact that in today’s world, humans are living in an elevated parasympathetic state that’s railroaded by co-workers, traffic, email and so on.

To change this, try breathing to reduce stress. There are three basic and effective techniques:

  1. Belly Breathing - Sit or lay in a comfortable position with one hand on your lower belly and the other on your chest. Draw in a deep breath while focusing on feeling your lower body expand while the chest remains still. Repeat for 10-15 breaths.
  2. Crocodile Breathing - Lay face down on the ground and rest your head on your hands. Relax and draw in a deep breath while focusing on expanding your torso area (belly, back, and sides) for 360 degrees. Attempt to do this for 3-5 minutes a day. 
  3. Balanced Breathing - For balanced breathing, you want to count the duration of each inhale and exhale, progressing to longer each round. For example, breath in for 1 second, hold the breath in for 1 second, then exhale for 1 second. Next, move on to 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. Once you hit 4, go back down the ladder. Repeat for 2-3 minutes.
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