Do you have a breath-work practice?
Have you ever noticed when you're stressed, irritated, or anxious, not only is your heart racing, but you're breathing faster, in short, shallow breaths? This is because in times of stress, your brain responds by setting off these stress hormones to allow your body to protect itself in an emergency. Imagine being chased by a bear, you want your brain to send the signal to increase heart rate, breathe faster, and move as quickly as possible!
Your breathing is a good indication of whether you're relaxed or stressed. Think about when you wake up naturally after a good night's rest, your breathing is deep, full, and steady. On the other hand, imagine if you wake up late or to a loud alarm, your breathing may be fast or shallow. Again, both a response to the state of your nervous system in that moment.
So how can you naturally ease your stress, calm a flustered mind, or quiet your overwhelming thoughts?
Just as your brain can signal to your stress hormones to rev up, your stress hormones can signal to your brain to calm down. How? By relaxing, sleeping, and breathing. Breath-work has been studied and shown to help reduce stress, and enhance a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Tips and tricks to relieve stress and anxiety:
Next time you're feeling stressed or "revved up", try taking a deep inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts (this is called box breathing). The exhale is important, it's what signals to your brain to calm down.
Other breathing techniques I like and have implemented into my morning routine:
- Wim Hoff breathing (30 shallow breaths, 1 minute breath hold, 30 shallow breaths, 1:30 minute breath hold, 30 shallow breaths, 2 minute breath hold).
- Pranayama Exercises (usually performed with Yoga, it uses various exercises to control breathing)
- 4-7-8 breathing: release all air, inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds making a "swoosh" sound