Overcoming Chronic Stress with Diaphragmatic Breathing

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Many americans experience chronic stress.

Chronic stress means that your body is in continual fight or flight mode which can wreak havoc on the on the body and can lead to mood issues, lowered immunity, increase in blood pressure, increased cholesterol, risk of heart attack, increased fat storage, aches and pains, cramps and loss of libido. Chronic stress disrupts the body’s natural balance required for optimal health.

There are many ways to activate the relaxation response, such as meditation, yoga, stretching, organizing your environment and schedule, prioritizing tasks, reduce the number of your commitments or learn to delegate tasks. One immediate way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and let your body relax is through diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing.

Many people breathe with short, shallow breaths where your chest/shoulders rise and fall. With diaphragmatic breathing, as you breathe, your belly will rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.

Test it out for yourself: place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. when you inhale & exhale, which hand moves?

Now practice belly breathing. Let the belly expand on your inhale and let the belly contract on your exhale. only the hand on your belly should move, while the hand on your heart remains stable. Deepen and elongate each breath. Your inhale and exhale should be of equal length.

As you begin to practice this more and more, eventually all of your breaths will be soft belly breaths.

Amy Potter