Now let the breath go, push it out; Repeat five times
How are you feeling? Refreshed, energised, perhaps more alert!
The calendar has ticked over into 2021, Happy New Year. So much has changed, yet so much remains constant and our approach to the year ahead is entirely up to us.
I’ve heard many people saying the usual things that are shared around when the clock rolls over into the new year like; I am going to care more for my health, lose that five kilos, drink less coffee, exercise more and be present. The list goes on, and I wish those of you well who have decided to make this a focus for yourself, consistency will be the key to your progress.
To begin, however I want to share a suggestion to be aware of and practice, before you launch into the best laid plans and objectives you may have. It might just help at a time when you need it most.
Do the breathing activity above once more; Inhale; breathe in deeply
repeat five more times.
Disruption to our lives has become another element to manage and there are ways to cope and reduce our reactions to this, simply by the awareness of our breathing. Begin with doing these breathing techniques before you respond or send that first email, sit at your desk, table, cafe, and conciously take a moment to breathe, look around and take in the surrounds. Below are some simple breathing techniques to try, refine and implement into your day. I wanted to begin the year with reminders to prevent overwhelm, anxiety and limit stress as we re-commence work and re-establish routines once more.
Constant, Long-term Anxiety and Stress can Harm Our Bodies
During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised.
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be damaging to your health, even small amounts of stress that collects over time are detrimental. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood and energy levels.
You are Holding Your Breath
Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Is this you?
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.
Breathing Exercises can Help to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion and alkalizes the full body. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals, some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill especially in a yoga pose, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to energise when working out at intensity.
Top Breathing Exercises to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. These breathing tips can be done anytime and anywhere with no equipment or booking required. Be aware of the small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, and use the breath to manage the anxiety from building.
Exercise One: Belly Breathing
This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out.
1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area.
2. Take a big breath through the nose and push your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest.
3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and feel your belly move inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.
4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Exercise Two: 6-7-8 Breath
The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.
1. Close your eyes.
2. Relax your mouth.
3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace.
4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds.
5. Exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds.
6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, more if you feel like it.
You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music.
Exercise Three :The Box Breath
Another simple technique that can be done at any time of the day.
1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose.
2. Hold for 4 seconds.
3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose.
4. Hold for 4 seconds.
5. Repeat at least 5 times.
You can adjust the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, to see what works best for your body.
These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As you set up the year ahead, include these simple practices to add into your stress and anxiety managment and prevention kit.
The best way we can support ourselves and our reaction to stressful and unknown situations we face is to have some go-to tools to implement at the onset of a stress related situation.
Our workplaces and office are much more aware and accepting of strategies to manage stress, so you might even like to lead your next meeting or video conference with some simple breathing techniques as I have shared above to set the tone of your meeting.
Are you living with constant stress that does note abate regardless of what you do, keeps you awake at night and impacts your eating habits? You may be heading down the sprial to burnout. Please click here to discuss what is happening for you. Together we can map out the way out of this through a unique program to support you to break habits that have led to your state of ill health and set you free to live harmoniously with new positive habits.