To Breathe or Not To Breathe…
Ok, to breathe is better…that’s settled so end of blog. But really though, are you a chest breather or a stomach breather? In a calm state, if you watched yourself breathe you would notice your stomach rising and falling rhythmically…ahhhh, peace and quiet…birds chirping, butterflies fluttering overhead…nice!! This normal breathing pattern uses the diaphragm muscle and some muscles around your ribs called external intercostals. However, in times of stress your breathing will become more forced and this means you have to recruit more muscles to help out…mostly the muscles in your neck (I won’t name them because my spell checker will start over-heating) When this heavy breathing occurs you will notice that instead of your stomach rising and falling, your chest will rise and fall…the chest breather!
So, stomach breather good…chest breather not so good. Why? The diaphragm loves what it does and it’s pretty good at it. The neck muscles don’t mind helping out when they have to (like when you’re being chased by a lion at the zoo or something) but for the most part the neck muscles are happy just holding up your head and moving it around. Under stressful times you recruit the use of your neck muscles even more-so than the diaphragm causing over-use of the neck muscles. If you are habitually stressed then the over-use of the neck muscles causes excess tension which can lead to headaches.
Not only can it cause headaches but chest breathing is usually characterized by short, shallow breaths which mean you aren’t taking in adequate oxygen and you aren’t getting rid of all the waste that you normally do when you exhale. This can lead to tired and stiff muscles. If all that wasn’t bad enough, poor breathing patterns can affect your sleep…wow, this just keeps getting worse so I’ll stop there.
Is there anything you can do about this? You bet! Try to consciously think about how you are breathing. Practice breathing “diaphragmatically” and when you notice your chest rising and falling during breathing then calm yourself and think about restoring your breathing pattern by being a stomach breather. You can practice this by taking a few deep, slow breaths as you watch your stomach rise and fall.
**Be aware of your body and when it is under stress. When you are under stress just stop for a moment and be aware how you are feelings and sensations in your body. Tense muscles? Clenched teeth? Relax your muscles…deep breath…consciously picture the stress leaving your body…close your eyes for a moment and picture a calm scene. Restore your breathing.
**Exercise. Exercising or even just taking a walk will relieve the tension built up in your muscles. Of course not only will exercise relieve stress but it promotes a positive mood, improves sleep and reduces depression and anxiety.
**Social support. Studies show that stress can be relieved by visiting with a friend or even pick up the phone and call a friend
**Right after a stressful event do something that you enjoy and is important to you like a hobby or spending time with your spouse/children (as long as they weren’t the source of your stress) This will help put things into perspective for you and help you to realize what is important to you.
**Be flexible and have a plan. Sometimes stressful events are unavoidable. In those situations, realize you can’t change the event but you can change how you react to it. Picture yourself in that stressful event and overcoming the obstacle. Make a plan ahead of time on how you will handle yourself.
There are a lot of ways to help relieve stress and if you go to Google University I’m sure you will find more ways…I just wanted to present some ways you may not have thought of.
Happy Friday Everyone!!