Belly breathing to ease anxiety

Belly breathing to ease anxiety and distress


ANXIETY AND STRESS are part of our daily lives now. This extremely rapid moving world tends to trigger anxiety and stress constantly and easily.

Anxiety and distress can cause nutritional disruptures. Some persons keep travelling to the refrigerator, while others can’t get food into their systems. Both scenarios may damage our health and our weight.

BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE … is the answer to ease these two modern ailments.

While belly breathing alone can’t fix deep-seated anxieties, it works well as a tool to help ease anxiety and stress. Regularly engaging in belly breathing can help you turn a fight-or-flight response into a relaxation response that’s beneficial to your health.


How should we breathe?

Like a sleeping child, says Dr Katherine Rosa of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. “If you ever watch children sleep, they all breathe from the belly and not the chest. This relaxed state is the more normal way to breathe.”

Yet most people are chest breathers, which is how we react to stress.


Feel it in your belly

Our appetite may be altered every time we are feeling stressed or anxious, sad or depressed. Any unbalanced in our feelings have a direct impact on our digestive systems and hence our appetite.

One way to change our reaction to modern stress is to learn how to belly breathe instead of chest breathing. Belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the head down the neck, through the chest, and to the colon. This activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure, and lowering stress levels.

If you are not familiar with belly breathing, try this exercise: sit in a chair, lean forward, and place your elbows on your knees. Then breathe naturally. “This position forces you to breathe from the belly, so you know what the sensation feels like,” says Dr Rosa.

You can also try lying down on your back, this position naturally engages belly breathing.


A mini strategy to teach yourself mindful belly breathing

Every time you feel stressed, simply take three slow and controlled deep belly breaths. It seems simple, but it interrupts stress triggers.

To help you be more mindful about your breathing pattern, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. The chest hand should be still while the belly hand moves up and down as you inhale and exhale.

Practice belly breathing throughout the day to make it more of a habit so we can engage it naturally any time we want.


Based on information published by:
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School; April 26, 2019.

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