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Posts Tagged ‘deep breathing’

In an article from Reader’s Digest, “Change the Way You React to Stress,” Robert Fried, Ph.D., director of the Stress and Biofeedback Clinic at the Albert Ellis Institute and a senior professor of psychology at Hunter College said, “When you’re stressed, you may be sitting on the outside but running on the inside. Deep breathing for stress reduction means you’re sitting on the outside and you’re reposing on the inside.”

Once you’ve learned to do deep breathing, says Dr. Fried, author of Breathe Well, Be Well, it takes less work to breathe, thus reducing the amount of work your body has to do and sending a message to your brain that you’re inactive. After a while your body gets the signal and your heart rate and oxygen consumption slow.

The Deep Breathing Technique

This exercise combines deep breathing with mental imagery to help you feel relaxed yet alert. The results are immediate, so you can pull out the technique any time you need to feel calmer and more in control. Dr. Fried has used it in treating everything from tension and anxiety to burnout syndrome, panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression, tension headache, and high blood pressure.

A few notes of caution (yes, even something as seemingly innocuous as deep breathing isn’t entirely risk-free — a testament to its power to effect change in the body). If you’re not used to deep breathing, your diaphragm muscle will need time to adjust and become toned, so start slowly. If you experience cramps while doing the exercise, stop. Also, deep breathing may cause a significant decrease in blood pressure, so if you suffer from low blood pressure or fainting, be cautious when trying it. Check with your doctor before doing this exercise if you have a condition in which you may need to hyperventilate, such as diabetes or kidney disease. (Under certain circumstances hyperventilation may be the body’s protection against diabetic acidosis.) And diabetics, take note: The sudden reduction in blood levels of certain stress hormones has been demonstrated to reduce the need for insulin and may cause your blood sugar to drop.

Day 1. First, seat yourself comfortably, with your back supported by the back of the chair. Loosen any tight-fitting clothing and place your hands on your knees. Let yourself relax. Now you’re ready to begin.

• Close your mouth and breathe through your nose only.

• Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you inhale, hold your chest and don’t let it rise. Let the hand on your abdomen rise as the air fills your lungs.

• Exhale slowly, pulling your abdomen back as far as it will go without letting that raise your chest in the process. Spend a minute or so on this exercise. If you feel dizzy, you are working too hard. Stop and rest a little until the dizziness passes, then make the motions a little more subtle.

Day 2. Follow the same routine you followed yesterday, but practice the exercise for two to three minutes.

Day 3. Breathe for four minutes, and try the exercise without your hands. You should now be noticing that your inhale and exhale are approximately the same duration. There should be no pause before or after inhale or exhale — just one smooth motion. Your breathing rate may range between three and seven breaths per minute.

Day 4. Today you introduce imagery. Sit in your chair as before. Now:

• Close your eyes.

• Picture a very specific scene — the beach in July, a cool pine forest, swimming underwater. Try to put yourself in the scene — hear the sounds, feel the air (or water), smell the scents.

• As you focus on this scene, begin your deep breathing. Each time you inhale, imagine that you are breathing in the air of your scene, saying to yourself, “I feel awake, alert, and refreshed.” And as you breathe out, feel the tensionin your body flow out with your breath as you say to yourself, “I feel relaxed, warm, and comfortable.”

Do this for four breaths, then stop. After a few minutes of rest, repeat the exercise. Try the routine once in the morning and once in the evening. After about three weeks, Dr. Fried recommends that you do the exercise in rounds of three: Four or five breathing cycles and a few moments of rest, followed by a second round of four or five breathing cycles and a few moments of rest, and finally a third round of four or five breathing cycles.

Once you’ve mastered deep breathing, you can pull it out of your relaxation arsenal whenever life gets tense. Not only will it help slow your body down, but it may also, in effect, slow down time, providing those critical moments that are often the difference between exploding and maintaining your cool. As you breathe in and out, release the physical tension and then ask yourself the following questions:

• Is the way I’m reacting to this situation increasing my tension?

• Is this reaction logical and reasonable?

• Is this reaction realistic?

• Is there another way to view the situation?

The answers may enable you to “spin” the stressful situation from the negative to the positive, or at least to the neutral.

Deep Breathing Technique from Reader’s Digest article, “Change The Way You React To Stress:Deep Breathing Exercise”

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Relaxation Exercises to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
from Helpguide.org

Deep Breathing

Stress Relief: Yoga, Meditation, and Other Relaxation Techniques

The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s curveballs.

The Relaxation Response

The relaxation response is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed. It is best done in an awake state so don’t practice relaxation when you are very sleepy. The Relaxation Response IS trainable and becomes more profound with practice.

The stress response floods your body with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” But while the stress response is helpful in true emergency situations where you must be alert, it wears your body down when constantly activated. You can’t avoid all stress, but you can counteract its negative effects by learning how to evoke the relaxation response.

The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles. In addition to its calming physical effects, research shows that the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.

Starting a Relaxation Response Practice

A variety of relaxation techniques help you achieve the relaxation response. Those whose stress-busting benefits have been widely studied include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga, and tai chi.

Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult. But it takes daily practice to get full benefit of their stress-relieving power. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour.

More Relaxation Techniques from www.helpguide.org

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

During your busy day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or “stressed out.” Try this quick stress buster exercise to help calm down your nervous system and get some fresh oxygen to your brain!

1. Find a quiet area. If you are at work, this may be a stairwell, an empty conference room, your car, or even a stall in the bathroom! Just find a place you won’t be interrupted.

2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes.

3. For 60 seconds, scan your body and notice any areas of tension or pain. Notice what you are feeling emotionally without judging yourself. Are you feeling anxious, fearful, angry, frustrated?

4. For the next 60 seconds, breathe in and out deeply from your nose (versus your mouth). As you breathe, pay attention to your breath, feeling the air as it enters your nose, travels into your lungs and then leaves your body as you exhale. Notice the way your chest and abdomen rise and fall with each breath.

5. Then for 60 seconds, do a new body scan, noting the feelings in your body and emotions. How do you feel now? Is there any change in the tense areas of your body? What differences do you notice in your emotional state?

This is a great, simple and super inexpensive (aka free) stress buster tool that you can take with you anywhere you go, at home, at work or even at the airport!

Try it out and let us know what you experience.

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