Breathing exercises can be one of the most useful resources to tap into to help decrease stress and anxiety. We already take over 20,000 breaths a day, and it’s something you can do anywhere at any time. Learning how to become conscious of and control your breathing is a truly beneficial skill to improve your physical and mental health.
So what is the science? How is learning how to control your breath really going to help you manage your stress and learn to calm yourself? When someone tells you to take a deep breath, they may actually be trying to help you tap into your bodies natural ability to calm itself. When our body senses a threat, whether real or perceived our body shifts into fight or flight mood. In this mode our heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure all increase, blood sugar floods our system, our muscles tense in preparation, and digestion, salivation, and other body functions deemed immediately unnecessary decrease.
In our current society much of our stress is internally perpetuated, as well as chronic, meaning that this abnormal state in our body persists, instead of returning to optimal function or homeostasis. Reduced digestion, increased blood sugar and blood pressure can lead to weight gain and increased risk of serious chronic conditions. Using breathing techniques can actually help turn off the parasympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight response, reducing respiration rate, heart rate and blood pressure and inducing a state of calm.