Switch off stress
Long-term stress isn’t great for your body – but there is some very good news about your stress response. “It’s very simple,” says Fran. “Your stress response is either off or it’s on. Your body has two states that it can operate in – high stress mode (fight or flight) or relaxed mode (rest and digest) and it can’t be in both at once.”There’s a part of your brain called your amygdala, which tells your body whether it’s time to be stressed or time to relax and you can trick this part of your brain to switch off stress and turn on relaxation very easily if you know how.
“Your stress response causes your breathing to become quick and shallow,” says Fran. “By mindfully doing exactly the opposite – breathing deeply and slowly – you can convince your amygdala that all is well and get it to turn off your stress response. As far as your amygdala is concerned, it is impossible to breathe deeply in an emergency.”
Try Fran’s 4-7-8 breathing technique to calm yourself down. Breathe in through your nose deeply for a slow count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven and then exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight. “While you are breathing in this way, it is impossible for your body to be in stress mode and it allows your entire system to be calm,” says Fran. “It is usually enough to repeat this technique four times to get the benefit, but you can continue for as long as is comfortable to you.”