Relieving Stress

Do you want to be stress free?

There are two types of stress; both have similar effects on the human body: positive (“good”) stress, called eustress (from the Greek “eu,” meaning “well” or “good”), and negative stress (“bad stress”) or distress (“dis” means “not” or the opposite of well). Usually, when we say “stress,” we imply distress.

Do we need distress (stress), in our life? No, we don’t! Can we avoid stress? No, we cannot. Can we reduce negative stress? Yes, we can!

Everyone wants to be stress free, but the question is: “What should we do to reduce stress in life?” As we know, stress is part of our lives – there is no stress-free life – but there are hundreds of different ways to reduce it. Unfortunately, there is no single “good coping way” to deal with any given situation.

The intent of this article is not to list and explore all of the available techniques for reducing stress; rather, this article will explore only one very simple technique, something that has been known to you from the first moments of your life. It’s your breathing.

Do not be disappointed! Reading this article will help you to learn why breathing is such a powerful tool.

The first thing to be aware of is that you can calm yourself by consciously controlling your breathing. There is a direct relationship between our emotional state and conscious breathing. This connection, known as the “science of breath” has been a part of human knowledge for thousands of years. This science shows us that our minds follow our breathing patterns. By breathing in an appropriate way, you can calm the forces within yourself.

The point is this: if you can gain control over your breathing, you will be able to take control over your emotional state.

Before going into detail about how to control your emotional state by breathing, you need to know that there are two kinds of breathing: intercostal and abdominal breathing. Confused? Don’t be; I’ll explain.

Chances are, you are using intercostal breathing right now, meaning that you are breathing from your chest. Abdominal breathing occurs when you breathe from your abdomen.

From the very first seconds of life, we breathe from our bellies (abdomen). Unfortunately, early in childhood, most of us switch from abdominal breathing to chest, or intercostal, breathing. Actually, what we are doing is switching from the stress-free mode of breathing to a stressed style. Only abdominal breathing is the breathing of relaxation. When you are relaxed, your breathing is deep, easy, and slow, and comes from your belly. On the other hand, when you are angry, tense, stressed out, or fearful, your breathing is sharp, shallow, and quick, and located in your chest.

By breathing quickly we prepare our bodies for action. This is the body’s fight/flight response to stress. Whatever is going on, your body senses that you need energy; breathing quickly will give you more energy (in the form of oxygen). Unfortunately, quick breathing also causes unpleasant sensations as a direct result of reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the body. In an advanced state, this is known as hyperventilation.

Because we switched, unintentionally, from abdominal to intercostal breathing, as children, if we wish to use breathing for relaxation, we must come back to our original style of abdominal breathing. As you may know, abdominal breathing is a part of meditation and yoga exercises.

You can use abdominal breathing to calm yourself whenever you are under any kind of stress. If you try to breathe as if you are relaxed, you will be surprised by how relaxed you will become. The good thing about the science of breathing is that anyone, at any time, and anywhere, can engage in deep, conscious, abdominal breathing. With abdominal breathing, we bring extra oxygen into the blood and cause the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are naturally occurring hormones that re-energize and promote relaxation. Yes, breathing can heal effectively our emotions.

Now that you know a little bit of physiology about human breathing, you can see the benefits of an appropriate breathing technique.

Recently, I asked people around me a very simple question: “Do you believe that you can calm yourself by consciously controlling your breathing? ” My “survey” results gave me very different opinions. What I learned was that many people do not know about the two types of breathing.  Next, I wondered if many of them believed in the power of relaxing breathing. Most of them, I was shocked to learn, do not! My conclusion is that only a very few people know basic facts about their own breathing. This means that, right now, only a very small percentage of people realize that they can use powerful breathing techniques as a tool for relaxation.

This article does not go into detail about how to use and practice an appropriate, conscious abdominal breathing technique. If you wish to learn more about this topic, you need to learn it on your own. Hopefully, you will discover a new, easy, and free of charge tool for reducing your unnecessary stress levels.