Reduce Stress with Breathwork and Meditation
Are you stressed? Do you feel pulled in a thousand different directions? If so, this blog is for you. Here you will find the top ways to destress and relax now via breathwork and meditation techniques.
Breathwork and meditation are two proven ways to relax and calm your central nervous system. According to Dr. Robin Berzin, your sympathetic nervous system commands your fight-or-flight response. When it activates, your heart rate and breath speed up and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat.
If the threat is "A lion is chasing me and I need to run away," this response is helpful. But if the threat is "I'm late to work!" This response is not particularly helpful—and, in fact, it can be damaging. When cortisol is elevated too frequently or for too long, it disturbs the body's hormone production.
The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, controls your rest, relaxation, and digest response. When the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers, and your body is guided back into a state of calm and healing.
Putting your body in a relaxed state is easier than you might think. It just takes a slight manipulation of the breath. So let’s get started on ways you can start relaxing.
Box Breathing Technique – 4 Step Process:
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, digestion and others. It provides an almost immediate sense of calm.
To effectively manage stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. The “Relaxation Response” was discovered and coined by Dr. Herbert Benson. It is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).
Box breathing activates the relaxation response while reducing stress levels and improving your mood. That makes it an exceptional treatment for conditions such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
This relaxation technique is also known as resetting your breath or four-square breathing. It is easy to do, quick to learn, and can be highly effective. You can perform it even if you are in a busy meeting, dealing with a difficult situation with your family or sitting in stand-still traffic. Before starting, you should sit with your back supported in a comfortable chair and your feet flat on the floor.
You may choose to keep your eyes open or closed. However, it is more effective with your eyes closed. Take a deep breath in, hold it for a brief moment and sigh it out.
Slowly breathe in through your nose while counting to four. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Hold your breath in while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Slowly exhale for 4 seconds and hold your breath out for 4 seconds.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 at least four times. Ideally, repeat them 5 times, or until calm returns.
I invite you to practice the box breathing technique when you feel tightness or tension in your body, especially muscle tightness in the face and shoulders or feel anxious.
Why Meditation is Important:
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It originally was meant to help deepen the understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. The purpose of meditation is to produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
During meditation, you focus your attention and attempt to eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being. It is an active practice where you strive to be in the present moment and not allow the mind to wander, shifting to the past or future.
Types of Meditations:
● Awareness Meditation: Every time we meditate, we are training our awareness to be an observer rather than caught up in our thoughts and emotions. To create greater awareness, focus on your body, your breathing, listen to the humming sound of your A/C, or any other repetitive sound.
● Guided Meditation: Guided meditations are led by an experienced meditation teacher, either in person, over a live broadcast, or via pre-recorded audio or video. They are great for beginners to meditation and you can experiment with different types and different time durations.
● Transcendental Meditation ™: TM is a mantra-based form of meditation originating from the ancient Vedic teachings. You are issued a mantra by a teacher, which is never to be spoken aloud outside of your instruction. The process of meditation is simple — in a seated position with closed eyes, you repeat the mantra in your mind for 20 minutes, twice a day (ideally morning and mid-afternoon).
● Loving Kindness Meditation: Loving kindness meditation (LKM) is the practice of wishing one’s self and others to be happy, content, and at ease. For example, you might use a phrase like, ‘May I be happy’. Or, ‘May I feel peace’.
I recommend you aim to meditate 10 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and then again mid-afternoon, maybe between finishing work and starting your evening.
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