Our world is moving faster than ever. The speed of technology, gadgets and smart phones provide a constant overload of information that puts our bodies under an incredible amount of physiological stress.
This relentless chronic stress sweeps under our skin and gets stored in our tissues, robbing us of energy, causes poor concentration and affects our breathing. The very core of our physiology is our breath and the process of respiration is the exact place where we can take back control and begin to make profound changes for our state of being.
So today, allow me introduce you to your respiration. Your breath is the single most powerful process that can either make you horribly anxious and tired, or restore your energy and make you feel calm and centered.
When you are stressed, your nervous system automatically flips to the “sympathetic response”. This is the part of your nervous system that gives you energy to run away from danger, bringing vital force away from your organs into your muscles and increasing your breath rate. Although there is no real enemy behind your back, the constant high levels of stress will eventually make you a fast and inefficient breather.
Stressful, rapid breathing drains your battery, similar to when you have multiple apps on your iPhone – your energy runs out faster without ample time to recharge.
Stress breathing completely bypasses the main engine of breathing, the respiratory diaphragm. This pushes the burden to the accessory breathing muscles: pecs, scalenes and levator scapulae. The constant fight or flight state robs the energy from our adrenals as they continually respond to the demands of cortisol, a stress hormone. That’s why you need your 5th cup of coffee by 3pm and are too exhausted to give any more energy to your family when you finally get home. You are cranky, tired and exhausted.
Ideally, the respiratory diaphragm should contract and move downward as you inhale, resulting in a swelling of the abdomen. On exhale, it moves back into its natural resting position, causing the deflation of the abdomen. This continuous rhythmic movement creates mobility in all surrounding organs, including the heart and lungs, resulting in better digestion, elimination and overall health. In addition, abdominal breathing triggers the relaxation response (opposite of the stress response) and is mandatory for our bodies to heal, repair and restore.
Furthermore, if you are person who suffers with chronic pain, breathing slowly for 3 minutes will start the process of diminishing your pain. Yes, you are reading correctly: you can change your pain signals just by quiet abdominal breathing. Stress changes breathing, but you can alter your stress by controlling your breath – all in the span of 3 minutes. This is not an expensive operation and you don’t need any special equipment, clothes or technology. Truly, the power of oxygen fits in for any budget. The breathing solution is so simple that we often forget its healing effects, diminishing the relaxation power that lies right in front of our nostrils.
Come back Friday for the 3 minute stress shifting technique!