Stress is a byproduct of living in the modern world, but we now know there are many ways to control our exposure to it. How can we move past stress through breathing, regulating our anxiety levels through monitoring how we inhale and exhale? Learn more in Just Breathe: Mastering Breathwork for Success in Life, Love, Business, and Beyond.
We suffer a host of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms caused by stress, but when it comes to doing something about it, we merely treat those symptoms instead of addressing the cause.
In fact, a certain amount of stress is good for us, even necessary. We need it to grow and to build resilience. The key is the way we think about it and react to it. Used properly, channeled wisely, stress can strengthen and inform us.
The Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who coined the term “stress,” said that if he had had a better mastery of the English language, he would have used the term “strain” instead, because that’s what he really meant. e confusion around this led to all the talk about the difference between “good” stress and “bad” stress.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that stress is “bad.” Let’s assume that it has become something we need to fix or manage or reduce or overcome. In that case, let us approach it holistically—as a spirit, mind, and body issue. Approach it with mind intelligence, body intelligence, and heart intelligence. Fortunately, the breath is central to all three of these.
There are ways of breathing that reduce stress and ways that exacerbate and even create it. We will explore some of those breathing patterns now.
Low and Slow
A general rule of thumb for antistress breathing is “low and slow.” at means slow diaphragmatic breathing, preferably at a rate of six to eight breaths per minute, or even slower if it is not in any way a challenge.
Another breathing pattern that is used to relieve stress is to make your exhales longer than your inhales. Deliberately extend or lengthen your exhale as you focus on letting go and relaxing. Quieting your mind, managing your self-talk, and deliberately engaging in positive internal dialogue, using positive affirmations, can help the process immensely.
There are other ways to master your breathing. Make sure you’re not breathing wrong and try to yawn your way to better health.