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Diminishing Stress With Breath Work

Just breathe.

It sounds so rudimentary and simple, doesn’t it?  

Most of us are unaware that as we go about our days, we are holding our breath and shallow breathing.  The more stress we encounter, the more we subconsciously do this. These actions actually send a “stress” signal to our brain, which in turn alerts our adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, one of our stress hormones.  If our brain is receiving these messages all day long, day after day, we can get stuck in flight and flight mode. The health ramifications of being in this hyper state of vigilance are numerous. Do any of these sound familiar?  Anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, irritability, anger, weight gain in the abdominal area or inability to lose weight, inability to stay on task, bloating, or poor digestion to name a few. Not to mention the toll it can take on depleting our microbiome, setting us up for disease.

So, next time you feel the perils of stress trying to grip you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Find a quiet place (office, bedroom, bathroom, car).
  2. Close your eyes. 
  3. Think of something in your life that brings you joy.   This can be a memory, a favorite pet, a picture, a sunset…
  4. Take a deep breath in slowly, belly breathing (pushing your abdomen out) for a count of 5 seconds.  Then, breath out slowly for 5 seconds. Repeat for a minimum of 1 minute. Optimally for 3-5 minutes, twice a day.  Many people start and end their days with deep breathing. 

Scientific Fact:  Belly breathing for 1 minute actually sends signals to the vagus nerve that gets us out of fight and flight mode, thereby ceasing the stress response before it has the chance to escalate.   For more information on deep breathing and heart math (a form of deep breathing that controls heart rate variability) read, Transforming Stress by Doc Childre.

Written by:

Karen Callagy, PA-C
Adult Functional Medicine Practitioner

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