Have you ever heard of diaphragmatic breathing? A lot of people haven’t, but it’s really important. Why? Let’s start with this question. How’s the stress level in your life? When all is right in our world, most of the time we can keep our stress under control. But sometimes when everything seems to be dumping on you at once, stress wins and that’s not a good thing for our bodies. Your hypothalamus…a tiny control tower in your brain…decides to send out your stress hormones. These are the same hormones that trigger your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and this is a good thing. This is how your body protects you in an emergency.
But if you continue to have stress daily, your body reacts differently. The protection wears down and your adrenal glands begin to produce adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones, especially cortisol, can cause all kinds of problems from insomnia, to weight gain, to headaches, to a weakened immune system, to diabetes, to high blood pressure and even can put you at risk for a heart attack or cancer. When you’ve heard Stress Kills, it’s absolutely true.
So what can you do? Many doctors advise you to not let stress get to you. Of course that’s easier said than done. And they usually have a Reactive response to your stress by prescribing drugs to help calm you down, to get your blood pressure reduced, to help with your diabetes, etc. Unfortunately a lot of these drugs come with some bad side effects, which will only trigger your stress levels more. These drugs are also expensive and they still don’t address why you had stress in the first place.
Fortunately you have more power than you think. You can take a Proactive role in your own health. The secret of combatting stress is to not let it get out of hand and it all comes down to being able to control your body. It’s free, with only good side effects. What is this magic? No magic, well maybe a little. It’s the way we were wonderfully made and it’s as simple as breathing. But most of us have learned to breathe from the chest. Deep breath in and your chest expands. Deep breath out and your chest contracts. The problem with this type of breathing is two fold. By breathing this way you don’t get nearly the oxygen you need to maintain a strong healthy body, and that includes a strong, alert mind. Oxygen is important for every cell of your body.
So how do we get more oxygen into our bodies? Learn to breathe from your diaphragm. It’s not difficult. It’s just different from the way you normally breathe. Start by focusing on the muscles in your abdomen. Then take a deep breath in through your nose and at the same time Expand you abdomen. Then open your mouth and let your breath out slowly the same time you are contracting your abdomen. This is also called Belly Breathing. Do it again slowly. Breathe in through your nose and Expand your belly out. Only this time hold your breath for a count of 5 before you release your breath through your mouth and contract your belly in, as you once again slowly count to 5. Only your belly is moving. And your chest your shoulders stay motionless. It will take some time before your body learns to do this this naturally, but it’s worth it.
There are so many benefits to breathing through your abdomen. First, you’ll feel more relaxed than you have in a long time. In fact, you’ll be so relaxed that if your stress has caused insomnia, you’ll find yourself falling asleep more quickly. Next, your body is now getting life sustaining oxygen that that not only helps keep your immune system strong, but this oxygen will help with mental clarity and focus. Stress can cause shallow breath, but diaphragmatic breathing increases our lungs capacity to once again get precious oxygen to flow throughout our bodies to help our blood to flow freely. Most importantly, diaphragmatic breathing helps you to calm your mind and clarifies what’s really important. And maybe the stress that you thought was so overwhelming may not be so big anymore