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Calm in the Storm: Unlocking Your Inner Strength to Defuse Stressors #3

The human stress response is an evolutionary adaptation that has helped humans cope with crises. It occurs in response to danger in any form—

In the face of a perceived threat, the sympathetic nervous system floods the body with stress hormones, primarily cortisol, and adrenaline, and initiates a complex “fight-or-flight response.”

These Fight or flight changes are meant to support us in navigating and surviving the crisis.

Truth be told, the system serves us beautifully, when followed by a period of rest, recovery, and recuperation.


Excess stress can also impact our mental and emotional states. Because our physical body affects our emotions, and our emotions affect our physical body.

Stress tends to wear us down on a systemic level.

The bottom line is this, if you know that you’re stressed (even occasionally), there is a good chance that making some supportive adjustments could benefit you immensely.

Learning to manage your stress response takes practice.

In each of these 12 installment series, I will talk about some tools and techniques to help get you started.

#3 Your Most Powerful Tool is Something You Never Leave Home Without (and it is not our mobile phones)!

Our breath is the most important tool we have to combat the stress response.

Simply bringing our attention to our breath can slow it down, and trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System (our Rest and Digest counter to Fight or Flight).

Our stress response causes shallow breathing, and our shallow breathing causes a stress response.

Long-term shallow chest breathing can seriously affect our health.

It can cause sleep issues, complicating fatigue experienced by not breathing effectively with the respiratory muscles.

This leads to—or exacerbates—pain, including headaches and pain in the neck and upper back due to the disengagement of the diaphragm.

Chest breathing results in the lowering of white blood cells and certain proteins that signal that support our immune.

The body is then susceptible to, illnesses, aggravating pre-existing medical conditions, and prolonging healing times.

Breathing only from the top part of the lungs creates reduced oxygen intake, which impairs our thinking. And disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and it increases blood pressure and heart rate.

Shallow breathing often equates to reduced physical ability—you have less endurance and become winded faster.

When we breathe with our chests, we use the muscles in our shoulders, necks, and chests to expand our lungs, causing neck pain and headaches. Our shoulders slump forward and our posture changes as well.

We all know the feeling: tension building, mind racing, and a shallowness to our breaths. It's like our bodies are stuck in overdrive, forgetting the simple act of deep, mindful breathing. But fear not, fellow stressed-out souls! Diaphragmatic breathing, a technique harnessing the power of our mighty diaphragm muscle, is here to the rescue.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Imagine your diaphragm as a superhero – a flat, dome-shaped muscle separating your chest from your abdomen. When we breathe diaphragmatically, this hero inflates with each inhale, pushing your belly outwards and filling your lungs with delicious oxygen. This deep, rhythmic breathing bypasses the shallow chest puffs of everyday life and unlocks a treasure trove of benefits.

Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing:

Reduced stress and anxiety: Deep breaths send calming signals to your nervous system, hitting the brakes on that fight-or-flight response.

Improved sleep: Say goodbye to tossing and turning! Diaphragmatic breathing slows your heart rate and eases tension, lulling you into a restful slumber.

Enhanced focus and concentration: Deeper oxygenation nourishes your brain, boosting your cognitive powers and sharpening your mental edge.

Pain management: This breathing technique can help manage chronic pain by reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation.

Improved digestion: Diaphragmatic breathing massages your internal organs, aiding digestion and alleviating discomfort.

Ready to unleash your inner-breathing superhero?

Step 1: Find your zen zone

Get comfy! Lie down on your back with knees bent or sit up tall with shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes or soften your gaze.

Step 2: Place your hands as your breath guides

Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly below your ribs. Feel the difference?

Step 3: Breathe like a superhero

Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your belly inflate like a balloon. Your chest hand should barely move. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, feeling your belly draw inwards.

Step 4: Repeat and reap the rewards

Start with 5-10 breaths, gradually increasing to 10-15 minutes as you get comfortable. Practice regularly throughout the day for maximum zen-out.

Bonus tips:

Visualize your breath as a wave, gently washing over you with each inhale and exhale.

Focus on the rhythm of your breath, counting each inhale and exhale if it helps.

Don't be discouraged if it takes time to master. Be patient and kind to yourself.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple yet powerful tool for transforming your well-being. So, take a deep breath, unleash your inner superhero, and experience the magic of mindful breathing!

Remember, consistency is key. Make diaphragmatic breathing a daily ritual, and watch your stress melt away as you cultivate inner peace and mental clarity. Now, go forth and breathe like the superhero you are!

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