Stress is a normal part of our lives. The way we’re built as humans means that certain events and situations can trigger our stress response system, creating internal panic and alarming our body of danger.
But, although stress is a natural, human response, if experienced regularly, this fight or flight mechanism can play havoc with our wellbeing. The physical symptoms of stress include rapid inhalation, high blood pressure and increased heart rate.
One often underestimated tool to ease these symptoms is harnessing the power of the breath. In fact, deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower your stress levels, as the process sends messages to your brain to calm down and recentre.
There are lots of breathing techniques that will help you relax, many of which are taught in education environments to help students prepare for exams and stressful situations. Therefore, we’ve enlisted the help of Richard Evans, education expert at The Profs to share five tried and tested breathing techniques that can help you manage stress.
This technique stretches the muscles in your face and relieves any tension. It’s a fun way to ease the mind through energetic breathing.
This style of breathing is great for restoring focus and calming your nervous systems. The equal aspect helps you to create rhythm and harmony, which brings your mind to the present moment.
This common technique helps to instantly relieve stress. It was developed to reduce any signs of nervousness, stress and even help you to get a good night’s sleep.
This technique can be done at any time during the day or night. The short yet concise breathing helps to take your mind away from distracting thoughts.
This technique is common in reducing high levels of anxiety and stress. It’s a common part of yoga and allows your brain to reach a state of relaxation.
According to counsellor Andrew Keefe, it’s all to do with two areas of the nervous system; the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
“If we feel anxious or worried, it’s often because we sense something bad or scary is about to happen. This is because the amygdala, the brain’s alarm system, has detected what it deems to be a threat or risk to our safety, and is getting the body ready to respond.
“Messages in the form of stress hormones are sent to the heart to get it to beat faster, to the lungs to take in and distribute more oxygen, and to the muscles to get them ready for action. These signals run along the SNS – the part of the nervous system responsible for getting the body ready for exertion.
“The PNS, by contrast, is responsible for calming the brain and body down, and it is engaged by long, slow, deep breathing. Slowing your breathing down will slow down your heart rate, and the heart is connected via the vagal nerve with the non-verbal area of the brain, which houses the alarm system, the amygdala.”
Breathing exercises not only help you to restore peace to your body, but they also allow you to practise mindfulness – living in and appreciating the present moment.
As the world around us continues to adapt and change, we will likely come up against new challenges in the coming months. But, by learning small practices like these breathing techniques to help us manage stress and calm our breath, we’re arming ourselves with a toolkit to help us prioritise our wellbeing in the face of adversity.
But, if you’re struggling to achieve a calmer state of mind and are looking for longer-term support, speaking to a therapist can help.
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