How Breathing Exercises Help Reduce Stress

[ 0 ] October 10, 2013 |

Stress represents one of the biggest health issues around – it gets more people sick than any other condition (and it’s really not that close). And because stress depresses your immune system, it also makes people much more prone to other sicknesses. As a result, whether you think it or not, it’s important to look for ways to reduce or eliminate stress wherever possible. One of my favorite solutions are breathing exercises – they’re a very under-appreciated tool that anyone can practice, and it costs nothing but time and just a little bit of patience. Here’s more about how and why it works…

The Negative Impacts of Stress

When a person begins to stress out, their heart rate and blood pressure immediately accelerate. To compensate for that increased oxygen demand, the body’s breathing system goes into overdrive. However, breathing usually becomes shallower, which in turns requires faster breathing to compensate. As a result, for those who don’t have optimum cardiovascular capacity, it’s not uncommon to get dizzy when under too much stress for too long.

Chronic stress can have long-term effects on the human body as well. It’s a bit like a car engine running at top speed for too long. The wear and tear eventually can’t be avoided with engine lubrication, and parts begin to get hot and fail. Then things break. In the body, the heart often takes a huge beating with stress, but it can be the stomach, digestive system, diet, and weight control that show the earliest impacts of chronic stress. And much of it is due to the body not being able to rest and relax when it needs the downtime. People then often try to compensate in other ways such as drinking, using drugs, over-eating, smoking and similar…which all just make the situation worse.

Breathing Exercises trigger a positive cascade

Practiced for millenia, physical stress can be limited and controlled just with your breathing. By using paced and controlled breathing, you can strategically put oxygen back into your circulatory system, ultimately reducing your blood pressure and heart rate…directly lowering your stress level and allowing you to get plenty of health-promoting rest. That relaxation tells your nervous system to turn off its fight-or-flight response, reducing the amount of stress hormone (cortisol) that floods into your body and stopping lactic acid from heading into your muscles (preventing muscle knots, etc). When you get enough rest, your body has a reserve of energy to draw on, making you feel heaps better and healthier as a result.

Study after study has proven that breathing exercises not only reduce stress, but they can help eliminate health conditions already triggered by anxiety. One of the best ways I’ve found to channel your breathing is through yoga or tai chi. They’re not only fun, but help direct your focus JUST on your breathing. In my opinion, that’s the single most difficult thing to master when it comes to breathing control.

yoga-breathing

Back to ailments, a lot of my clients use breathing exercise to reduce the damage caused by a number of common conditions. Some of those include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • General pain
  • Insomnia
  • Indigestion
  • Heart problems

Caveats

If you’ve had breathing problems in the past, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any heavy breathing exercises (or yoga, etc). The goal isn’t to get a doctor’s blessing; an MD can simply identify risks that you or I may not be able to understand or be aware of on our own. Being informed ahead of time can help avoid injury or worse when practicing controlled breathing.

In Summary

Breathing exercises are one of the easiest and lowest-cost ways to deal with the effects of stress, and are especially beneficial for those constantly on the run, under pressure, or working late hours. Just put your mind to it and, whatever you do, don’t belittle it because it’s just breathing. It’s the lifeblood to your body and can produce some remarkable effects. I’ve seen it succeed time and time again (often in the face of traditional medicine) — trust me, it works.

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Category: Exercise At Home

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About the Author ()

Kate Robinson is a country girl who never had to worry about her weight until she piled on the pounds in her twenties. After years of depression, self pity, binge eating and yo yo dieting, she finally managed to lose 71 pounds and got back her figure and her life! The experience affected her so much that she vowed to help as many people as possible to do the same. Kate teamed up with some industry experts to provide the right information and support when you need it most.

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