Reduce Stress By Breathing ConsciouslyIt is my opinion that being able to breathe naturally and fully is the most important aspect of our ability to respond to stress in a creative manner.
When we breathe in, we are nourishing every cell in our body with much needed oxygen. Without an appropriate amount of oxygen, our cells diminish the performance of their day-to-day functions. As a result, we feel tired, sluggish, or even depressed. With optimum oxygenation, our cells thrive. When we breathe out, we are taking carbon dioxide, a poisonous waste product, out of our cells and eliminating it from the body.
A very common response to stressful situations is for the muscles involved in breathing to tighten up. As this happens, our breathing becomes shallow. Shallow breathing means decreased gas exchange - less oxygen in and less carbon dioxide out.
This imbalance sets off stress signals from the cells to the brain that we need more oxygen. The body's response then is to breathe faster to try to get enough oxygen. Faster breathing requires more energy and the body fatigues more easily than normal.
If instead we interrupt this cascade of events by deepening our breath and relaxing the muscles of respiration, we reestablish the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. We feel rejuvenated instead of tired.
Therefore, I believe that the most important response to stress is breathing - taking a deep breath, and being aware of our breathing. The herbal therapies already described facilitate our ability to do this.
YogaAnother extremely valuable tool in this regard is yoga.
Yoga is a therapy that completely supports the philosophy of wellness that is given here, and deserves a brief mention. The breathing, stretching, and strengthening that happens in yoga give us not only the ability to move with more ease, but also to consciously use our breathing to manage stressful situations and to find our center.
It also gives us the ability to express ourselves clearly in every area of our lives. Expressing ourselves clearly is one of the ways we can deal with potentially stressful events so that tensions do not accumulate in our bodies.
Through yoga we learn to observe ourselves and our reactions to things, and observing ourselves is the first step to being able to respond differently. Breath focus teaches us to be aware of how events affect us so that we can respond in a way that feels right to us, not in a patterned response.
When we are relaxed and centered, we are in touch with our true self and more able to be guided by it.