04 Aug Best Ever Technique For Managing Stress That Sounds Obvious But Totally Isn’t

The best, simplest, easiest, cheapest and by far most effective strategy for handling stress well is to breathe well.

Breath? Ridiculous hey? We all breathe all the time.

relaxed-womanBut when we’re stressed, we automatically change the way we breathe.

Our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. We breathe only into our upper lungs.

We’re on autopilot: alive, but not flooding our lungs with life giving oxygen, and not even noticing what we’re missing.

If you’re not convinced about how crucial great breathing is for feeling calm, try this simple experiment:

Take really shallow and short breaths, just enough to reach your upper lungs. Continue for a while.

Bet you don’t feel calm and relaxed. You probably even feel a little anxious… breathless. Stressed. We can induce feelings of stress by breathing in a shallow way.

Now focus on taking a deep breath and encouraging it to flow all the way down into your lower lungs. If you’re doing this properly, you’ll feel your tummy expand; this is why it’s sometimes referred to as “abdominal breathing”.

When you’re learning healthy abdominal breathing, it helps to put your hands on your stomach so you can feel it rising with each inhale. For some people, even this is tricky. Like any new skill, changing habits of shallow breathing may take practice.

When you start getting really good at abdominal breathing, you’ll be able to breathe in a four step sequence, that goes like this:

Four steps to mastering abdominal breathing:

1 First, inhale into your lower lungs (your tummy will expand)
2 Then fill your upper lungs (your chest, back, and shoulders will expand)
3 The exhale first from your lower lungs (your tummy will flatten)
4 Then finally exhale form your upper lungs (your chest, back, and shoulders will flatten)

Take your time. Repeat these steps two or three times: now you have a sequence. Allow the four steps to flow together so it all feels fluid and gentle. And tell me if you don’t feel calmer and less stressed than you did before.

When to use abdominal breathing:

1 As an immediate stress response technique: Stop. Breathe. Then react.

This means using it as a “front-line” strategy when the proverbial hits the fan. When your partner/child/colleague/boss is being difficult and you’re feeling annoyed. When you’re running late and feeling frantic. When you’re at your computer, wishing you weren’t, and feeling resentful. When you’re heading for the fridge or reaching for the bottle, feeling impulsive or self destructive.

2 As a preventative stress management technique: Stop. Breathe. Then carry on.

This means getting in the habit of doing a sequence of abdominal breaths intermittently and regularly throughout every day, at times when you’re not particularly stressed, but just want to enjoy the quiet buzz of relaxation that healthy breathing delivers. Try it now.

Breathing in a shallow way induces feelings of stress. And being stressed causes us to breathe in a shallow way. It’s a negative spiral that makes life harder than it needs to be and people unhappier than they need to be.

Full abdominal breathing is the cheapest, easiest, and by far most effective strategy for handing stress well. It’s a take anywhere instant stress management strategy that’s so often overlooked, maybe because it just seems too obvious.

Will great breathing habits solve all life’s problems? Sorry, no. But get really good at abdominal breathing, and at remembering to use it, and it definitely will allow you to handle life’s stresses far easier.

Pamela Pannifex helps couples fix relationship problems and individuals solve personal problems and to create healthy, happy, love filled lives. Pamela is a Master’s degree qualified psychotherapist and naturopath who has been in private practice for over 20 years. To discuss your own relationship or personal needs contact Pamela here or call 0416 003 026.