A Simple Tool to Help Reduce Stress

It’s no secret, the world we’re living in right now is stressful! Mom life is crazy enough in the first place, but we are now also forced to mom through a pandemic. Stress levels are through the roof and anxiety has never been higher. There are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety. And one simple way to start: breathing exercises.

Reduce Stress Through Breathing

Breathing exercises are one of the most effective stress-reducing tools that we have. It requires zero equipment and it can be done anywhere! Breathing is a quick and easy way to reduce anxiety and when done the right way, it can be very effective. 

Breathing has been proven very effective at reducing stress levels in your body. And breathing techniques, specifically deep breathing techniques, have been used for thousands of years in the health and wellness world to reduce stress. I teach deep breathing practices all the time with my patients in the clinic, and it is something you can do as well!

How Does it Work?

So, how exactly does deep breathing reduce stress? Well, it is actually quite scientific (and amazing)! Basically, you have two parts of your nervous system. The first is called your sympathetic nervous system; this is responsible for ramping your body up into a “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system is active during stress and can lead to increased muscle tension, higher heart rates, and increased anxiety.

You also have a part of your nervous system that helps calm your body down, called the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps to decrease anxiety and leads to higher levels of rest and relaxation. Can you guess which one deep breathing activates? Yep, the parasympathetic nervous system! 

By performing deep breathing techniques you activate the parasympathetic nervous system which calms down your entire body. This can help reduce your heart rate, decrease muscle tension, and calm your brain, which results in less stress. When all of those changes occur in your body, you should notice decreased anxiety and more relaxation. How amazing is it that such a simple act such as breathing can have such a profound effect on your body?

Benefits

Breathing exercises can also help regulate various systems in our body, further reducing stress and anxiety. Breathing exercises have been proven to decrease pain, normalize digestion, help you sleep better, and improve your mood. We all know that with how 2020 and early 2021 have been going, all of these benefits are greatly needed! 

So, how do you do these deep breathing exercises? Sure, you can just take a few deep breaths and accomplish some of the above; but there are a few steps you can take in order to get the most out of your breathing exercises. 

How to Breathe to Reduce Stress

  1. Get in a comfortable position. Whether it’s laying down or sitting in your favorite chair, the more comfortable you are, the more relaxed your body is. This will allow for even greater stress relief. 
  2. Place a hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. In order to calm down your nervous system, you need to do a certain type of exercise called diaphragmatic breathing. By placing your hands in these positions, it will be easier for you to make sure you are breathing correctly. 
  3. Inhale fully and slowly through your nose. While inhaling, try to breathe into your belly. If you are doing this correctly, the hand on your belly should rise while the hand on your chest doesn’t really move. See? I told you that your hand placement will come in handy! 
  4. Exhale through your mouth. 
  5. Repeat this for 5-10 breaths (or longer if you’d like).
  6. Don’t get discouraged if this is hard to do; for a lot of people it takes practice! The more you practice this technique, the easier it will be to take a full, deep, calming breath. 

You Can Do It Anywhere, Anytime 

Once you feel comfortable with this breathing technique, you can use it anywhere. Stressful day in the office? Breathe at your desk. Are your kids being crazy and driving up your anxiety? Take two minutes to shut your bedroom door and breathe. Stuck in the school drop off line and stressed because you’re running late? Breathe! See? It is that simple! 

So, I hope I have convinced you in the power of breathing. We have just finished a crazy and stressful year and things have not yet returned to normal. I sincerely hope that this all will soon pass, but there is comfort in knowing you now have this powerful tool to help you get through. So, the next time you feel anxious, fatigued, or stressed out, take a few minutes to breathe. Your body and mind will thank you for it. 

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Dr. Jill is a mom, wife, and women's health physical therapist. She married Ryan in 2010 and they have 2 children, Easton (2013) and Molly (2015). Their family enjoys being active by participating in various activities, being outside, and going to the lake in the summer. Jill has been a physical therapist for 10 years. She is a Women's Health Certified Specialist and has earned a Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. She is also certified in pelvic floor dry needling. She practices at Apex Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Fargo. She loves her work and greatly enjoys advocating for the health of women! Jill feels very lucky to be able to work part-time, which makes for a very busy clinic schedule but also a lot of good time at home with her family. Give her a follow on Instagram.

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