In stressful times, it’s common to hear people say “Just breathe!” Breathing is essential to our existence, but it’s not something we particularly think about. Breathing is actually a profoundly useful stress-reducing technique. Conscious breathing can teach the nervous system to shift from a state of “fight-or-flight” to one of “rest and digest.”
When we are stressed and upset, our bodies activate the fight-or-flight response. This is an unhealthy way to operate for prolonged periods because our heart rates and blood pressure rise while other systems, such as the digestive system, actually shut down to conserve energy.
Follow the instructions below to practice breathing techniques to reduce your stress:
If you have any difficulty calming your mind to focus on breathing, you may find sitting in nature an easier way to decompress. You could also use music, a sound machine, or a flickering candle flame to focus your attention. If you continue to find it tough to sit quietly and breathe, try a progressive muscle relaxation technique. You will still focus on your breathing, with eyes closed, but while sitting upright in a chair.
Concentrating on one muscle group at a time, starting with your feet and moving upward through all your muscles, contract each muscle group for five seconds and then release the contraction, imagining all the tension melting away onto the floor. This can help you recognize your areas of stress, and it feels great.
Here are some other links on grief, stress and breathing.