It’s no surprise that a vast majority is feeling some kind of stress at the moment. It could be stress from juggling work and childcare, stress from food and financial insecurity, or stress from an unsafe home environment. Whatever it is, we’re all feeling it. The trouble starts when the stress response is constant, which can then elicit health problems such as high blood pressure and immune suppression, making you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression.
We obviously can’t avoid all stresses in life, but we can seek out healthier ways of coping. One helpful technique to utilize is the relaxation response, a state of profound rest that can be evoked in a number of different ways, such as meditation, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation. Practicing breath focus is a common feature of each of these techniques.
Deep breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration, can often feel somewhat unnatural. In American society, a flat belly is considered attractive, so women (and men for that matter) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange (the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide) and can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
BUT HOW DO I PRACTICE BREATH FOCUS?
This practice allows you to concentrate on slow, deep breathing, thus disengaging you from distracting thoughts and sensations.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down and place your hand on your belly. First, take a normal breath. Then, attempt a deep breath by breathing in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let that belly fully expand! Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose if that feels better to you).
Breath Focus in Practice:
Once you have mastered the first step, you’re ready to move on to regular practice of controlled breathing. As you sit or lay comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery or a word or phrase that helps you relax.
Creating a Routine:
Other techniques to achieve the relaxation response:
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