Something you may not have considered is that there’s something you’re doing this minute, without even realising it, that is an excellent form of stress relief: breathing.
Other ways to reduce stress — yoga, stroking a pet or even a chamomile tea. In fact, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to positively affect the heart, stress, digestion, pain levels — and more.
There is research to suggest that consistently practising controlled breathing will produce lower blood pressure and heart rate, which means less wear and tear on blood vessels. It is thought that over a length of time, implementing controlled breathing to lower blood pressure and heart rate can help reduce the risk of stroke.
Slow deep breaths may help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system allowing the body to relax, repair and heal. This state of repair enhances optimal digestion (3) and may offer a reduction of symptoms to those suffering from poor digestion, bloating, or constipation. Breathing deeply results in an increased blood flow, which initiates intestinal action in the digestive tract and will improve your overall digestion.
When stress overwhelms your nervous system, your body is burdened with chemicals that prepare you for ‘fight or flight’. While this reaction is crucial in emergency situations, when constantly in place, it can wear your body down. While it is impossible to completely remove stress from your life, it is possible to learn how to invoke a relaxation response which helps your body to return to a more relaxed state. Focusing on full, cleansing breaths, s an easy and powerful relaxation technique (4).
Some studies report that deep breathing may offer a therapeutic effect on chronic pain (5). It may relax muscles which tense up as a response to pain, and in turn, further aggravate the pain itself. Individuals with tensed muscles and are anxious are most likely to breathe through their chest. This action results in a disruption of the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This disruption affects the ability to be in a relaxed state. Diaphragmatic breathing restores balance to this state of health and may reduce pain. Deep breathing is a simple way to improve your health and can easily be done anywhere, at any time. It’s free and takes little effort, yet the results can be enormous. There are many forms of breathing that can be beneficial. Do some research and find out which works best for you.
3. Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. Pal GK, Velkumary S, Madanmohan.
4. Stress management techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Liza Varvogli1 and Christina Darviri. Athens Medical School, University of Athens.
5. Heart & Lung (2006; 35 , 269–76)