Right in the middle of a stressful situation is where I am most likely to forget there are tools for dealing with stress. Stressful situations are often time sensitive, and I tell myself “I don’t have time…” for anything other than soldiering through my stress and pushing myself toward a solution. I figure once I get this situation behind me, then I can take care of myself, then I can pick up the pieces, then I can breathe. When you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, have you ever noticed that worrying extensively somehow feels very productive? Of course, we realize that worrying isn’t the same as action-taking. And many of us, in our search for ways to alleviate our symptoms of stress and anxiety, have realized that worrying often doesn’t produce anything apart from the release of a wave of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that flood our systems and only serves to reinforce an underlying fear that something is very wrong, and we are not okay.
Funny though, how in times of stress we still seem to find time to worry, but are way too busy to just breathe.
For me, when I’m in the thick of a stressful situation and I find myself feeling too rushed to pick up a helpful tool, such as a breathing exercise that can take anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes, it helps to remember that all the worrying I’m choosing to do instead is in fact quite time-consuming and largely unproductive.
The best part about using breathing exercises for stressful situations is that you can do these exercises anywhere, and it can take a relatively short amount of time to experience some really amazing benefits…
10. Lower Blood Pressure
Practicing a few minutes of slow deep breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for releasing feel-good hormones that lower the heart rate and dilate the blood vessels. When we are stressed, we are in “fight or flight mode,” and even a one minute breathing exercise can be enough to shift us out of our stress response and telegraph to our minds that it’s safe to allow our heart rates to drop down into a more natural rhythm.
9. Conserve Energy
When we are stressed, our systems are working overtime! We are burning through our energy reserves at an intensified speed when we are operating from an adrenaline-fueled stress response. Have you ever felt your stress levels literally draining the energy right out of you? You weren’t imagining it. Even if we work from a desk, which mainly requires mental energy, our ability to produce sustainable high-peak performance is ravaged by the high-octane internal speed of stress.
Deep breathing is the equivalent of pumping the brakes. It slows down the speed at which we are burning through energy, and allows us to use our energy more efficiently.
8. Improve Sleep Quality
When the mental traffic of a stressful day follows us home and keeps us up at night, a slow and deep breathing exercise can imitate the way we breathe when we are fast asleep, and will influence the mind to release endorphins that help our body to relax and unwind.
7. Enhance Cognitive Ability
Concentrating from a calm and relaxed state of mind makes it easier to focus. Using breathing exercises to regulate daily stressors has also been shown to improve memory skills, and enhance decision-making abilities. Increased stress levels speed up your heart rate. Increased oxygen levels fuels the mind.
6. Good for Digestion
Performing breathing exercises have been proven to promote smooth functioning of our digestive system, and can even ease gastrointestinal issues like bloating and indigestion. With the absence of stress hormones putting other systems on hold, we are able to allow our body to function more optimally.
5. Improves Immunity
Breathing exercises help expand the lungs, which increases our oxygen supply and absorption.
Oxygen-rich blood is life-giving for our immune systems. Reducing cortisol levels, and lowering our heart rate also boosts our immune system.
4. Helps With Weight Goals
Stress is a major trigger for unhealthy snacking, and the constant flow of cortisol triggered by stress will stimulate the body to store fat, especially around the stomach. Using breathing exercise to right-size our daily stress response has been proven effective for significantly reducing cortisol levels, allowing for healthy metabolic function and reducing the urge to cope with stress by reaching for unhealthy snacks.
3. You can Do Breathing Exercises Anywhere at Anytime
Although being in a space where you can lean back and close your eyes, may enhance your practice, when taking a true time-out isn’t an option you can still reap the benefits of a breathing exercise while in transit, at work, or performing another task.
2. Breathing Exercises Cost Nothing and Require No Special Equipment
Integrative doctors are increasingly “prescribing” breathing exercises as a treatment for alleviating symptoms of hypertension, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and COPD because of their proven effectiveness for improving their patients’ daily lives. A major incentive for practicing breathing exercises now, is to prevent costly medical treatments for stress-induced ailments that develop over time.
1. Can Permanently Alter the Body’s Response to Stress
Maybe the most fascinating and awesome benefit to using breathing exercises for stressful situations, is that over time your body will acclimate to responding to stressful situations by relaxing and becoming more focused. Regular use of breathing exercises that don’t need to take more than 5 minutes once or twice a day, has been clinically proven to retrain your automatic response to stress from jumping right into high-octane cortisol flooding flight-or-flight mode, to shifting into a state of deep breathing relaxation that facilitates a mental and emotional reset.