How to deal with stress
Can you remember a time when you felt stressed out? Maybe it was only yesterday! How did it feel? Perhaps you felt as though your thoughts were on overdrive? That your head was swimming? Your shoulders and stomach were knotted? And that you just wanted to run away to some remote island for a very long time?
Truth is, you are not alone.
The majority of people experience feeling like this every day. So much so that some statistics report as much as 70% of people in the UK spend each day in the stress response.
Why is this the case?
Look around you and you will notice how many people are permanently attached to some form of device – even when walking along the street people are looking at their smart phone (and you can’t tell me everyone is following Google maps!). Most folk don’t get enough good quality sleep and then rely on coffee and sugar to keep them awake, alcohol to relax them and often substances such as nicotine to get through.
On and on bodies keep marching day in and day out. By Friday you are exhausted and strung out.
Stress relief made easy
Stress relief doesn’t have to come in the form of scented candle lit baths and classical music or meditation, although all act as good methods to relax the mind and body.
Instead, stress relief can come in the simple act of breathing. It may surprise you to know that when stressed, you breathe in a way that enhances the stress response. Yet changing the way you breathe and using the breathe, you can find your way to climbing off the stress response.
When stressed you are more likely to breathe from the chest, taking rapid, short, and shallow breaths.
You can control how you breathe, and it this form of conscious breathing that can instantly reduce your stress levels.
When your breathing comes from the chest, it is too rapid and shallow, which results in the heart working harder to pump blood around the body. One of the reasons we are told to breathe through the nose when exercising is because it supports the correct ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
The optimum breathing technique is to breathe from the abdomen. This not only places less stress on the heart, it also keeps you calmer. When breathing from the abdomen, you are connecting with the parasympathetic side of your nervous system, taking the body off alert and turning on the relaxation response. When you are on alert, you are in connection with the sympathetic side of the nervous system which inhibits the flow of saliva, accelerates the heart beat, and pushes adrenalin into the body.
Try this breathing technique and keep practicing it so the next time you find stress banging at the door, you can remain in control and find stress relief.
This is simply breathing in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. When you breathe, practicing breathing from deep in your stomach rather than your chest. Imagine your stomach is like a balloon and when you breathe in the balloon fills and when you breathe out, it deflates. If you can’t get to 7 or out for 11 when you begin that’s OK, simply make sure your out breath is longer than the in breath.
Breathing out for longer than you breathe in changes the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in the body. In turn, this changes the chemical signals your brain receives and causes the body to be more influenced by the part of our nervous system, the sympathetic function, that helps make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Just ten repetitions of this powerful deep breathing technique are enough to send the chemical signal to the brain to take the nervous system off alert, switch on the relaxation response and start to calm down the mind and body.
Take the stress test in our Metro article on how to find stress relief today.