Stress is an unavoidable part of our lives. However, it is within our power to support our wellbeing by improving our stress resilience, a breathing practice is a really effective and simple way to achieve this.
Our body is hard-wired to associate rapid, shallow breathing with stress. When we are in a relaxed state our breathing calms, becoming slower and deeper. Our feel-good hormones – serotonin and oxytocin – are released. As there is no perceived threat, our body systems focus on health and wellbeing (think better immunity, better digestion and overall better energy) rather than on survival responses. When you feel stressed, you have the capability to steer your system away from ‘fight or flight’ responses and into ‘rest and repair’ mode. How? By consciously slowing and deepening your breath. The breath is a connection between your conscious and unconscious mind.
The breathing practice to combat stress and promote relaxation
If you can find a quiet space, or put on some calming background music
- Relax your shoulders and neck (try rolling your shoulders back a few times)
- Notice your breath. Is it fast or slow? Deep or shallow?
- Begin to take longer, deeper breaths. In through your nose and slowly out through your mouth.
- Inhale slowly for a count of 4, hold for 4 and exhale slowly for a count of 6. Repeat as many times as you need too.
- Your body will relax and slow in its own time.
This is a great practice not just in times of stress, but one to incorporate into your daily life (so it becomes second nature to you). It might be nice to do just before you go to bed, or anytime throughout the day when you want to sink into a bit of relaxation.