Are you aware that conscious control of your breathing can help influence how you feel?
To reduce feelings of panic and anxiety, breath slowly and deeply. The way you breathe can change your heart rate, reduce stress levels and fight anxiety. When one is stressed, the tendency is to breathe shallow and fast, creating a vicious cycle because this makes the person more panicky. Research shows that deep breathing exercises reduce stress, alleviate chronic pain and improve decision-making.
Aisling Plunkett, a holistic health and wellness coach and founder of Arc Healing, says that”One thing that is great about breathwork is that it is so accessible”. She explains how a few minutes can have a big effect: “Everyone can do it, anytime, anywhere. It is so easy to fit it in your daily lives: if one can do twenty minutes every day that would be amazing, but even with just three minutes daily practice, you can already get some benefits. It will help keep you calm and balanced, and provide clarity, positivity and energy to do what you need to do.”
It is amazing how something so simple can help combat stress and panic in a big way. Aisling talks about a workshop in Portugal with a group when a forest fire broke out. Five minutes of breathwork with the manager brought calm and clarity of mind and enabled the person to take control of the situation.
How can breathing have such a profound impact? The science behind the benefits of breathwork is well-documented. According to Ian Robertson from Dublin Trinity College, a leading researcher in the science of stress and wellbeing, breath affects almost every organ in the body. It affects the lower part of the brain–the locus coeruleus which is the primary source of noradrenaline that prepares the body for action and the fight or flight response. The locus coeruleus is impacted by the carbon dioxide in the blood, which in turn is influenced by the way we breathe.
In addition, the way you breathe also affects your body’s rest and digest system. When we slow our breathing, we slow down our heartbeat and this helps calm us down. It will reduce the activity of the locus coeruleus and the levels of noradrenaline; this helps us control our emotions and think more clearly.
You can look at online videos or apps, or perhaps have a guided session once to see how it is done. Posture is important; you have to keep your spine straight in whatever position you are in during the exercise. There are many breathing techniques available; in her book, Breathe with me (https://archealing.ie/conscious-breathwork/), Aisling describes several but she says you can stick to three or four that you like.
One example of breathing practice is the 4-6 counting technique. Breathe deeply into your nose to a count of four and out through the nose to a count of six. Try practicing this or any other breathing exercise of your choice for a few minutes every day. By making it part of your daily routine, you will reap the full benefits, both physical and mental, from the practice. As Aisling says (Plunkett, 2022), “These wonderful breathing exercises are truly tools for life. Whatever situation you find yourself in, your breath is right there with you. You can now harness its energy to work for you.”
BBC. (2021, May 23). Take A Breath. Just One thing with Michael Mosley. London: BBC. Podcast accessed on 22 September 2022 at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000wc07?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin=share-mobile.
Plunkett, A. (2022, September 25). Breathe with Me. E-book. Wicklow, Ireland: Plunkett, Aisling.