Your body is continually working all day every day to maintain itself. And one of the body processes that’s always working in the background is your breathing. Without even being aware of it for most of the day, you’re constantly inhaling and exhaling.
How is this possible? Because of your body’s autonomic nervous system, which does exactly what it sounds like. It’s the system in charge of making things happen automatically in your body.
For the most part, we spend our day breathing at a relatively “normal” rate. However, your breathing rate can change when your body reacts to a change in your environment. For example, when you feel stress, your breathing rate will increase automatically as part of the fight-or-flight response.
A threat is a threat.
This response exists to protect you. In case of an actual emergency, like a tiger chasing you, your body perceives the presence of a threat. Then your autonomic nervous system gets to work doing things like increasing your breathing rate, along with your elevating your heart rate and creating muscle tension.
When your body experiences stress from daily life, the physical response is no different. Even if there are no tigers and only traffic, you get that same fight or flight response in your daily life. To your body, a threat is a threat. So as you grow more agitated while sitting at a light that refuses to turn green, your autonomic nervous system is fully activated.
So how can you counteract this response?
When you start to experience stress, pause to take several deep, intentional breaths. Breathing helps to slow down the stress response and control your emotions and anxiety. Reaching a more relaxed state through breathing can override the stress response and let your body know that the threat is gone.
Try this out.
Breathing is a practical technique to get some stress relief. So, the next time you feel stress or anxiety beginning to build, pause, and focus on your breath.
- Take a few seconds to breathe in through your nose. First, fill your belly and then your chest.
- Hold for just two to three seconds.
- Then slowly release your breath through your mouth.
- Repeat this three to five times or continue for three to five minutes.
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