One of the most simple and effective ways of reducing stress and anxiety is breathing, but not just any old breathing.
Fight or Flight magic.
We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response, it goes back to early humans when everything was so much simpler. The primal body needing to fight for food and to keep alive or to run away from danger. A part of our brain called the amygdala processes memories and our reaction to emotions. When we are fearful or anxious the amygdala works overtime, keeping us alert to danger, in order to stay and fight, or run away.
The reason that the right sort of breathing helps calm us down is because it sends a message to the amygdala to say everything is ok.
How to breathe for calmness
There are a few ways to do this but the most simple is as follows –
- Breathe in for 4 counts from your stomach, not your chest, (hold for 4 counts)
- Breathe out for 7 counts or until your lungs are empty
- Repeat until you feel the calmness fill your body
- As you get more comfortable doing this you may find you can slow down your breathing which will encourage your body and mind to be even more calm.
- Do this every day, more and more, and you will see good results.
The most important part is the out breath as this sends the most powerful signal that all is well.
If you image you are walking along a dark street and you hear voices around the corner, your body automatically gets ready for the fight or flight response and no doubt you will be shallow breathing and your heart will be racing in anticipation. As soon as you realise that the voices come from people who you perceive as non-threatening, your body will relax and your breathing will most likely become less rapid and you may even take a long breath out.
This release of tension on the outward breath will send that signal to the brain that everything is ok.
There are other ways of reducing anxiety and I will be giving you lots of tips in the coming weeks so please keep an eye out for the next blog.
Until then … BREATHE …