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Deep Breathing for Stress and Pain Relief

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Do you know what happens inside your body when you are stressed?

During times of emotional stress our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated - the part of the brain that says danger is near and we better run.  This signals a number of physical responses. . . . Our heart rate rises, muscles tense, some perspire, our digestion slows, and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow.  

These things serve us well for short bouts of serious stress.  It’s the adrenaline that can get us out of dangerous situations. But, it becomes a problem when the stress response lasts longer than the stressful event itself - or due to a low level of stress (like traffic or a grocery store line) that isn’t actually dangerous. 

The result of this nervous system activation over a long period of time is a hormonal imbalance with consequences including inflammation, height blood pressure, digestive disruption, and muscle pain. 

The good news is . . . We can take control of this response with a stress reliever that is readily available to all of us - our breath. 

The American Institute of Stress reports “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness”.  

This parasympathetic response is the “relaxation response” is the opposite of the stress response.  It triggers your body to relax, slow your heart rate, decrease inflammatory factor, and release tense muscles.  And we can achieve these stress-reducing benefits through control of our breath by deep breathing.

This type of breathing exercise allows us to take fuller, slower breaths that reflect a relaxed state of the body.  Benefits can be seen by performing these exercises just twice a day, but they are so easy that I recommend you try them whenever you find your mind racing or you are experiencing pain of any kind. 

The best news is, it’s not hard to perform deep breathing exercises AND you can do them anywhere.  Here are some step by step instructions to get you started:

  1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.  Take a deep breath in through your nose.
  2. Focus on filling your entire midsection like a balloon so that the hand on your stomach rises higher than the one on your chest.  
  3. Hold this breath for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able).
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth for. Count of 8. 
  5. Pull your belly in (like you are trying to button a tight pair of pants) to get all of the remaining air out of your lungs. 
  6. Repeat this (in through the nose and out through the mouth) 4 more times for a total of 5 cycles of deep breathing.  

Why not give it a try right now? 

There is no way we can get rid of stress in our lives altogether. However, we can change how our body responds to it. The ability to relax is important in effectively managing both stress and the pain response in our bodies.

Since we work with clients every day recovering from injuries and overcoming pain, we see first hand the benefits of effective breathing techniques. If you have additional questions about stress, breath work or other ways to manage pain, request a call from one of our practitioners.   Click HERE to start a conversation with us TODAY!