By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service.
You would be surprised at how many people hold their breath when they feel stressed.
Feeling tension can create anxiety, and holding your breath is one of the things that can happen when you are nervous.
But by not breathing regularly, you cut off the oxygen supply to your brain and body, and you can’t think or respond as well.
In addition, it adds to your feeling of insecurity. Just noticing what’s going on, when you’re feeling stressed, and then breathing deeply a few times can reenergize you and give you that extra bit of clarity that you need.
So take a few deep breaths. I know this advice sounds too simplistic, but it really works. There are some tried-and-true ways to take in air that you can learn how to do to help calm yourself.
Some breathing exercises can even give you a little extra energy and perhaps a greater sense of well-being, which will serve to reduce your stress or even eliminate it.
Basic deep breathing exercises have been around for a very long time, and learning this method can be helpful. Typically, when we breathe, most of us don’t fill our lungs to capacity, so take a moment to see how deep or shallow your own breath is.
I find that when I am at my desk and writing, my breath is light, calm but not deep. When I take a moment to inhale more air, I can feel a little tension release from my entire body, and so I take another breath.
By the way, if you find yourself sighing, it is a sign that your body wants to release tension, not just air. By doing a sighing exercise, where you take in a deep breath and let it out with a long sigh, you can create room to feel your emotions and express your thoughts to others much easier. Again, it sounds too simple, but it works.
Another great breathing technique is called yoga breathing, and the process is pretty quick, which is great if you are in a situation where your stress level is causing you to want to leave the room.
In this exercise, you first inhale through your nose slowly (about 8 to 10 seconds). Step two is to hold your breath for 5 seconds. Then, lastly release your breath through your mouth at the same pace you inhaled (8 to 10 seconds). It helps if you see breathing in as filling three chambers in your lungs: first filling your stomach/diaphragm with air, then your chest, and finally your upper chest (which won’t hold a lot, so just a little sniff is fine). You can release all the air at once, but again do it slowly.
Doing breathing exercises not only calms you and reduces your stress but also can lengthen your life and keep you healthier. This is one of those cases where you just have to try it and see how it makes you feel.
Give it a try right now. It will take some time and practice to benefit from the full effects, but this is a simple way to help you overcome your stress. Now breathe, and just keep breathing.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)