Anxiety and stress are the body and mind’s natural responses to anything that jeopardizes your sense of balance. Your nervous system releases cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones that make your heart beat faster, tense up muscles, rise blood pressure, and sharpen the senses to respond to physical or symbolic threats. Your breath becomes faster and shallower.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing: An obvious antidote to stress and anxiety
When you feel nervous, frazzled, overwhelmed or worried about something, try the following exercise:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable posture with your back straight.
- Release the tension in your face, jaw, neck, and shoulders.
- Softly close your eyes. Smile and relax. Breathe through your nose.
- Examine the inflow and outflow of air through your nostrils.
- Make a conscious effort to slow down the pace of your breath.
- Deepen your breathing by inhaling and exhaling more air. As you breathe deep into your lungs, flex your diaphragm, expand your belly, and feel the sensation of air filling up your lungs. Do not flex by flexing your chest. Exhale slowly.
- Repeat the inhale-slowly-exhale-slowly cycle five times.
- Reflect on how your mind is now more composed, stable and clear. Gently open your eyes.
Simple and powerful relaxation technique
Deep breathing from the diaphragm is easy to learn. It’s a technique you can practice anywhere, anytime to quickly get your anxiety in check.
Research has shown that deep breathing gets more oxygen into the brain and exercises the parts of the brain responsible for concentration and regulation of emotion. The brain regulates the release of stress hormones and reverses the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Your heart rate slows down and your muscles relax. Consequently, you can calm yourself down.
Self-Assessment Quiz and Recommended Reading
- Take this self-assessment ”How Stressed am I” quiz
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