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Just breathe!

You've heard those words hundreds of times, but what does it really mean? Why do people say that when they see someone stressed out, or maybe you've even heard it your own mind when you feel overwhelmed?

When we feel stress or pressure, we begin breathing differently. We take shallower than normal breaths, we breathe completely from our chest, and sometimes we stop breathing and literally hold our breath! Deep breathing techniques work to lower stress levels and blood pressure quickly by flooding your body and brain with oxygen rich blood. Oxygen helps your body heal and soothes nerves. Oxygen helps your brain to think more clearly, and who couldn't use clearer thinking in a stressful situation?

So what is deep breathing? A deep breath comes from the diaphragm/belly, so what that means is that when you take a deep breath in, your stomach rises/inflates more than your chest. There are tutorials on youtube for learning the diaphragmatic breath, but an easy way to monitor your breathing is to lie on your back and put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Take a deep breath in, and notice which hand rises more. If you chest hand is the only one rising and it feels unnatural to breathe so that your belly hand rises, you need to begin training your body to breathe deeply, i.e., belly breathe! Sometimes it is helpful to imagine the deep breath going into your stomach, as if you're trying to inflate it. Keep practicing until belly breathing feels more natural. Once you feel like you've got it, use it throughout your day to ease tension away and clear the stress.

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