It’s that time of year again when pressures start to pile on. Time pressures, financial pressures, complex social interactions with families and friends and the expectations from others and ourselves.
We do need a small amount of stress to function well, but we often don’t find the right balance. With increased stress, the autonomic nervous system moves from parasympathetic (calm) to sympathetic (fight or flight). This causes our heart beat to increase and our breathing gets shallower and faster, it’s all part of the fight or flight reaction. Symptoms of stress can include: Palpitations, dizziness, indigestion or heartburn, tension headaches, aching muscles, trembling or eye twitches, Diarrhoea, frequent urination, insomnia, tiredness or impotence. Severe stress can lead to panic attacks, chest pains, phobias and fears of being seriously ill.
Breathing is one of the ways to consciously move ourselves back into the parasympathetic (calm) state. We are often overinflated to start with, so, rather than taking a “deep breath in” let it all go and breath out first. Then work on slowing your breathing down, make it low, abdominal breathing with no upper chest movement, longer exhale than inhale and breathe in and out of the nose.
Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress as it burns off hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and helps produce mood-enhancing endorphins. You can even tie in your breathing for added benefits, counting your steps. In, 2, 3. Out, 2, 3, 4.
Take time over this busy Christmas and New Year period to look after your health. Start with breathing. We don’t think about breathing because it just happens but it has a massive effect on stress and our whole body. Take 5-10mins at either end of the day to sit or lie in a relaxed position, good posture and simply focus on your breathing.