When humans feel stressed, the natural response is “fight or flight,” during which time we will experience a rush of adrenaline, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and a period of increased focus.
This stress response can be useful when needed – for instance when running from a bear. But when daily struggles have us constantly on edge, we start to see the negative impact on our physical and mental health, as well as on the quality of our work. Our bodies simply weren’t built for the sustained periods of stress many of us experience in our professional lives.
While there are many healthy ways to combat stress – for example exercising, journalling, or listening to your favorite music – sometimes it’s useful to have a relaxation technique that can be implemented anywhere, at any time, without the need for preparation or resources.
Enter deep breathing. This timeless technique for coping with stressful situations can do wonders for your wellbeing, and the effects can be felt almost immediately.
You might have also heard this practice referred to as belly breathing, abdominal breathing, or paced respiration. No matter the name, the focus is on long inhalations that seem to fill your entire torso, followed by steady, controlled exhales. By following this breathing method, you’re encouraging the maximum trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide, thereby stabilizing your blood pressure, slowing your heartbeat, and alleviating symptoms of anxiety.
Ideally, deep breathing will take place in a quiet, comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, while you’re sitting down with your eyes closed. Practically, this tactic can be employed on a crowded train, as you’re preparing to give a big presentation, or even sitting at your desk. As long as your inhale fills your abdomen, causing your chest and stomach to expand, and your exhale is slow and steady, you’ll be able to feel the effects. It’s not even necessary to repeat this for a significant length of time – after four or five breaths you should start to feel calmer and more in-control.
To get started with deep breathing, follow along with the video below to get an idea of the pace. Then, the next time you’re feeling particularly stressed, remember to breathe deep to regain your composure.
“You can relax in odd moments, almost anywhere you are.” – Dale Carnegie