2020 is the year that will never be forgotten (not for the greatest of reasons, obviously).
The uncertainty of events has left many of us feeling frightened, stressed, low, tired…and there’s nothing wrong with this. Most of us have never experienced such a traumatic event on a global scale.
But with all this fear and anxiety, a lot of us are struggling with physical problems, like headaches, stomach pains, panic attacks, and tightness in our chests (all normal responses to stress). It can often feel hard to keep up with daily tasks.
But all is not lost.
If we start paying attention to this one thing (and begin working on it daily), we can slowly let go of worry.
I’m talking about our breathing.
So many of us are going about our daily lives, breathing incorrectly. In fact, we’re probably breathing incorrectly right now.
Yes, and? What does that matter?
Quite a lot actually.
Breathing too fast, chest-breathing, or holding our breath is screwing up our bodies without even realizing it. These habits lead to a shortage of oxygen to the body, causing problems like lack of energy, an unbalanced nervous system, a weakened digestive system, and constricted blood vessels.
So what’s the solution? Deep belly breathing (sometimes called diaphragmatic breathing).
Have you ever watched a baby sleeping? The rise and fall of their bellies. That’s how we all start out breathing. As we grow older, chronic stress and worries cause our breathing patterns to become constricted and shallower.
What are the benefits of deep belly breathing?
>> It reduces our stress response, as it activates the longest nerve in our bodies. This important nerve regulates our heart rate, our blood pressure, and our digestion. As a result, our digestion will be stronger, as well as many of our other bodily functions.
>> It increases our energy levels.
>> It grounds us.
>> Our chest will feel more relaxed, and as a result, so will the tension in our neck and shoulders.
>> It improves our core muscles’ stability.
>> It improves our posture (we should sit up straight for deep belly breathing).
How can I do it?
It’s actually super simple. You can try it right now.
1. Either lie down or sit on a chair.
2. Close your eyes. This is optional but might help you to focus as a beginner.
3. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
4. Take some normal breaths through your nose and see which of your hands are moving. If the hand placed on your chest is the one rising, you are breathing incorrectly.
5. Instead, bring your attention to your belly, and breathe into it. (You are actually breathing into your lungs, of course, but your belly should rise and fall).
6. Keep breathing. This is a good pattern to follow: inhale for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Then exhale through your mouth for eight.
7. On the exhale, visualize all the tension and negativity leaving your body.
Practice this for a few minutes daily, and you should feel like you can manage your stress a bit better.
Just take it one breath at a time.