Breathing is something we all do all day long. It is an involuntary response, and we couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to. But, although we can’t stop it, we can control it. But why would we want to?
Because breath control is a great shortcut to de-stressing!
The HSE tells us that work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 44% of work-related ill health and 57% of working days lost, in 2017/18. Our employers are destroying our souls and sucking us dry, and it’s time we defended ourselves.
We can learn to thrive in challenging environments by putting our stress levels at the top of our priorities. And that starts with breathing properly.
The Fight Or Flight Response
When the Fight Or Flight Response kicks in one of the biological changes that takes place is to breath into the top half of our lungs. At the same time the breaths we take become shallower and quicker.
This ensures maximum oxygen gets into our body as quickly and efficiently as possible. Great if we have to deal with an emergency like out-swimming a Great White or leaping out of the way of a runaway car. Not so great if we are just dealing with an arsehole boss or an excessive workload.
Like all signs of stress, shallow breathing is also a stressor in itself. If we allow it to continue after it is no longer needed it causes us unnecessary stress.
In short, if we are shallow breathing, we are living on High Alert.
This means our minds and our bodies are tense and not able to function as nature intended. The Fight Or Flight Response was designed by Mother Nature to save us from danger. That’s it!
It is supposed to be an emergency response, not a way of life. It is supposed to be allowed to dissipate when we are finished with it. When the danger is over, we are meant to chill out and enjoy life again. How can we expect to function properly if we are on high alert all day?
Here’s the important bit...
If we don’t actively take back control of our breathing, we don’t dissipate the stress chemicals. We then live our lives being controlled by our stress instead of enjoying ourselves.
I've been stressed
I know what I’m talking about. I let stress have the better of me for most of my life. Stress Sucks! I could tell you all the science and all about the mental, emotional and physical costs of stress, but the bottom line is simple.
It takes all the joy out of life.
You don’t need to know anymore than that. The more worried, frightened, guilty, angry, frustrated, disappointed (all just stress by the way) you feel, the less joy you have.
And a life without joy is no life at all. Feeling joyful instead of stressed helps you be resilient against a heavy workload and the arseholes that come with it. You can cope with anything when you are calm. It’s like water off a ducks back.
Wanna be a duck?
Deep breathing is amazing! Think about it. It’s the opposite to shallow breathing and, of course, has the opposite effect. It actually sends messages to the body to stop producing stress chemicals and begin producing calming chemicals.
It’s important for you to know that you don’t have to do this all the time. Do it during your meditation, or occasionally while you walk or watch TV. I really like to do it at bed time to finish my day and again when I wake up.
Deep breathing is amazing! It actually sends messages to the body to stop producing stress chemicals and begin producing calming chemicals.
The important thing is that you do it daily for five minutes or so. You are reminding your body of what is natural for it to do and it will love you for it!
The more you do it purposefully like this the more your body will do it naturally during your day. This is stress busting made easy. It’s just another positive habit to add to your daily routine that makes a huge difference to how you feel. What have you got to lose by trying it?
It’s worth noting that when I first started doing this it was quite uncomfortable. Breathing properly was something I had never done and when I began forcing air into the lower part of my lungs, I didn’t enjoy it much.
But, as with most things beneficial, we need to trust that it will make a huge difference and keep pushing through the discomfort until we reach the rewards.
The benefits I noticed within weeks of breathing deeply included:
- Noticing when I was getting lost in negative thoughts much quicker so would just focus on my breathing until I naturally became positive again.
- Noticing areas of my body that were tensed up, and would just breath deep and soften.
- My response to stressful events changed from a stressful, counterproductive one to a much more effective and fruitful one.
Long-term, deep breathing is known to have many benefits, not least of all, massaging your internal organs as nature intended.
All I can say is try it. It’s an extremely simple thing to do, so what have you got to lose? See how it works for you. Comment below how you get on, I’d love to know.
Begin by laying down. Place one hand on your chest and one just above your belly button.
Now when you breath you are looking to move your lower hand and try to keep the higher hand still.
Practise pulling down your lungs with your diaphragm. Really pull the air down as deep as you can.
That’s it! Easy as 1,2,3.
As I said, it may feel uncomfortable at first. But do what you can and keep practising. It gets easier.
Eventually you want to extend that to filling your whole lung, top and bottom. But seek to fill the bottom half first, then the top half.
Your eventual goal is to count to five as you breath in, hold for another five count and breath out for five.
When we’ve mastered that, I think our goal should be to breath like that all the time as we go about our day. Once we can do that nothing our employer, our clients or our customers – or anyone else does will stress us out.
Now that’s a worthwhile goal!
© 2019 John Freeman