I’ll bet you didn’t know that we tend to hold our breath when we are stressed? Did you know that chronic breath holding is a thing?
Chances are that you’ve never thought about it. Our bodies have systems in place to make breathing automatic. You’re not supposed to think about. It’s be design. Our body will naturally ensure that we will have enough breaths to remain living.
Stress interferes with the breathing process. Being stressed can tighten muscles that help you breathe, which shortens your breath and leads to faster breathing. But what if I told you that thinking about breathing, intentionally, could reduce stress.
Why Breathe Intentionally?
Intentional breathing is a powerful way to switch off your stress response. Since our bodies are programmed for fight or flight it is reasonable that our natural response to stress is to take action. Impulsive verbal or physical action with the goal of protection. Intentional breathing encourages us to pump our breaks. Attentiveness to breathing helps offset stressors, steady your position, and allows you to slow down. SLOW DOWN. Slowing down assists regulation of biological responses to stress that may not be appropriate to your present situation. Intentional breathing slows and deepens the breath resulting in a slowed heart rate. Behaviorally, we now have a decreased the need to take immediate action.
Fortunately, we can engage in mindfulness practices that will help us breathe in those intense moments. The Take 5 mindfulness practice directs your attention to the flow of your breath during the complete breath cycles. In this practice a breath cycle consists of a deep, intentional inhalation followed by a slow and intentional exhalation. From there, the cycle repeats.
How to Take 5
In this mindful breathing practice you use the 5 fingers of one hand to count each breath cycle, hence the name Take 5. Take the time to notice the body expanding with each in breath and contracting with each out breath. As a result of mindful breathing we withdraw our attention from the distracting thoughts that create restlessness or angst over time. With practice our mind becomes calmer and our emotional states more balanced.
Although breathing is not the “cure”’ it’s definitely a first step. One of my favorite things about breathing is that you always take your breath with you. No Assembly Required.
Do you feel any different?