CON­TROL STRESS WITH EV­ERY BREATH

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - Hamish McMichael

You won’t find a form of re­lax­ation or meditation that doesn’t em­pha­sise breath­ing. Breath­ing is one of the few es­sen­tial ac­tiv­i­ties that our body must do. Five min­utes with­out breath­ing will put most peo­ple in crit­i­cal dan­ger. Adults take about 15 breaths a minute, or 900 breaths an hour, or more than 20,000 breaths a day. Breath­ing doesn’t just af­fect our phys­i­ol­ogy it also drives our psy­chol­ogy. Try this ex­per­i­ment with me:

Ex­per­i­ment 1:

Imag­ine that you’re be­ing chased by a pack of wild dogs? How would you breathe? Imag­ine you are hid­ing in a cave from the pack hop­ing not to be dis­cov­ered. No­tice the ten­sion in your body, the ten­sion in your neck and how your breath­ing has be­come shal­low and fast. Now it’s un­likely you’ll be chased by a pack of wolves.

Ex­per­i­ment 2:

This time imag­ine you’re late for an im­por­tant meet­ing at work and stuck in traf­fic that isn’t mov­ing. You’re lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio and hear­ing about the lat­est mass shoot­ing. Your phone is out of bat­tery so you can’t call ahead, it’s a smok­ing hot day and, of course, your air-con­di­tion­ing just stopped work­ing. Bring your at­ten­tion back to your breath. Did you no­tice that it was sim­i­lar to the breath­ing pat­tern you adopted for fleeing from the dog pack? This panic breath­ing is the ‘go to’ when your body is un­der stress. The prob­lem with this breath­ing is it can tighten your chest, back and neck mus­cles. Tak­ing shal­low breaths means you don’t get as much oxy­gen into your body, which your brain needs to make good de­ci­sions. Your brain thinks you’re be­ing chased by wild dogs, which makes it harder to think clearly, and your gut stops di­gest­ing food be­cause your body is in flight mode, not re­lax mode. Pro­longed panic breath­ing can ruin your health.

Ex­per­i­ment 3:

No dogs or traf­fic jams this time. You’re on a beau­ti­ful Sun­shine Coast beach and it’s a per­fect day. You’re ly­ing on the beach in the shade with the gen­tle sound of waves break­ing on the shore. You don’t need to be any­where but here. All you can feel is the warm sand un­der your towel and a light breeze. No­tice how your breath­ing slows down. If you put a hand just be­low your ribs on your stom­ach you’ll no­tice that when you breathe in your belly ex­pands and your hand is pushed out. Put your other hand on your up­per chest. When you breathe in deeply your lower hand should move first fol­lowed by your top hand. This draws more air into your lungs and more oxy­gen into your body. Do 10 slow breaths feel­ing your hands rise and fall. No­tice any changes in your level of stress? Slow breath­ing is one of the eas­i­est, most ef­fec­tive ways to im­me­di­ately change your stress lev­els. It’s such an easy and ef­fec­tive tool that is to­tally un­der­utilised in our busy lives. Breath­ing is a sim­ple, ef­fec­tive way of re­duc­ing your stress lev­els. We use breath­ing to help clients start their re­cov­ery at the end of an ex­er­cise ses­sion. We also en­cour­age clients to breathe when they’re in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, and to help them di­gest their food. I chal­lenge you to try 10 slow breaths just be­fore you start your work day, and when you get home to see your fam­ily at the end of the day. With a clear, un­stressed mind, it’s amaz­ing how dif­fer­ent the world can look. Hamish McMichael: Kaizen Health Cen­tre – www.kaizenep.com.au

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