Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness Tip: Let’s Breathe the Right Way to Combat Stress and Anxiety

Did you know that 9 out of 10 people would probably get a near failing grade on one of the most basic of functions: breathing?  Crazy, right?!

After reading the article “Breathe to Beat Stress” by Danielle McNally, I now know what to pay attention to when I’m using a tactic that gets me through those highly stressful, anxiety-inducing times.  lol.  You know what I’m talking about!

It turns out that most of us are ‘shoulder breathers’ – when we inhale, our shoulders rise, ‘engaging the upper back muscles’.  By breathing this way, we’re only making room for air to enter in ‘the narrowest, tippy-top part of the lungs’.  It also sends the wrong message to the nervous system, spiking our stress hormones…the complete opposite of what we need!  This can even include those times when we’re reading the jokes I post (:P) to watching a favorite comedy series, and, we’re laughing hysterically.  If we’re only making room for a small amount of air to enter our lungs, our bodies will think it’s stressed.  But, we’re laughing!  Interesting.

We weren’t always ‘vertical breathers’.  Prior to entering elementary school, we were considered to be ‘horizontal breathers’ – when we’d inhale, it would look like there was a balloon in our bellies – air was entering and expanding the biggest part of our lungs.  But, once school started, and, we began developing bad posture from slouching in our seats from sitting all day, we were crushing our diaphragm muscle and were blocking our lower lungs from expanding.

Let’s get back to being ‘horizontal breathing’.  Let’s let our ‘vagus nerve’ tell our brain to get into ‘rest-and-digest mode’.  We’ll feel ‘less tense, sleep better, have less stomach drama, and fortify our immune system’.

Here are three breathing exercises, from Andrew Weil, MD, founder and program director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine:

When we’re…

  • angry…we’ll try breathe counting – we’ll sit in a comfortable position with a straight back, head slightly forward.  We’ll close our eyes and take a ‘few deep, natural breaths, counting from one as we exhale each time, up to five.  We’ll start over and continue for up to ten minutes.
  • tossing and turning…we’ll try the 4-7-8 breath – we’ll put the tip of our tongue against the ‘ridge of tissue just behind our upper front teeth.  We’ll exhale ‘completely through our mouth, making a whoosh sound.  Close our mouth and inhale slowly through our nose as we count to four.  Hold our breath for the count of seven.  Exhale, making a whoosh sound, and repeat for a count of eight.  Repeat the cycle three more times.’
  • nervous…we’ll try the 4-8 breath – for some of us, holding our breath for 7 seconds can cause anxiety.  So, with this strategy, we want to eliminate the holding of air. Let’s place our tongue against the ridge of tissue behind our upper front teeth, inhale slowly through the nose and exhale, making the whoosh sound.  Repeat three times.

Good stuff, right?  We’ll be expert breathers before we know it!

Love you bunches,

Lisa

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