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Stressed? Try this...
June 28, 2011
8:14 am
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dotsllc
Wilton Manors, Florida, USA
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When you are stressed your body goes into fight or flight mode.  This is the term that describes your body’s reaction to a perceived threat.  If we are threatened we have a choice.  We can either stay and defend ourselves (fight) or we can run away (flight).  Either way, the body has to quickly adapt and prepare for your response.  As such, there are a number of physiological changes that occur in your body to prepare you to either fight or flight: your heart rate increases, your blood pressure increases, blood travels away from your brain and to your muscles, you sweat, digestion slows, and pupils dilate, to name a few.  (Your body’s fight or flight response is due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.)  This fight or flight response, though very effective for saving us from an attack by a predator, can be quite detrimental when it occurs in response to our modern-day psychological stressors, such as an argument with a spouse or boss.

One simple technique that can help to calm the nervous system and help to dissipate our body’s stress is to learn how to control the breath.  The sympathetic nervous system cannot remain activated when the breath is calm and rhythmic.  Thus, if you calm the breath, you calm the sympathetic nervous system and return the body to a state of relaxation.  Here is how you do it.

First, sit in a comfortable position.  You are going to breathe in and out through your nose only, keeping your mouth closed.  When you inhale, imaging sipping the air through your nose until it washes over the back over your throat.  Keep in mind, that you will not be sniffing the air through your nose; your nostrils will not flare, they will be relaxed.  You will be able to control how much air enters the back of your throat by gently pushing the back of your tongue toward the opening of the throat which will help you constrict the opening of the throat ever so slightly.  If you are doing it correctly you will make a noise that sounds like the waves of the ocean lapping at the shore.  When you inhale, you will focus on filling your entire chest cavity with air until your lungs are fully inflated.  Be careful not to shrug your shoulders or clench and muscles; only your chest should rise naturally.  When you exhale you will slowly release the air back out of your lungs through the back of the throat.  Again, use the back of your tongue to slightly constrict the opening of the throat, thereby regulating the air pressure as you exhale.  To get the feel for the exhalation you can practice saying “haaaa” (like the word “hot”) aloud and then close your mouth while still saying “haaaa.”  You should feel the air shift from exiting your mouth to exiting your nose.  It will take some practice before you get the hang of it, but once you do, focus on making each inhale longer and each exhale longer.  You should be able to work up to inhaling and exhaling to the (silent) count of five.  If you can commit to practicing this breath-work for at least five minutes a day, I am confident you will feel the difference.  With some practice, you will be able to use it anywhere and anytime you are feeling stressed.  Happy breathing! 

June 28, 2011
9:59 am
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zarathustra
miami, florida
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this is VERY useful, i am a"fighter: person and normally i relieve my anger through self abuse, i am not going to lie, the adrenaline rush is quite appealing, it feels good, almost like you are unstoppable when this happens, like everything is bad and then you are pushed over the edge and thats it, no stopping you, nothing can hurt you. but i know this is a bad thing and i cannot always control my actions when i have these moments, and finding a way to calm down is VERY exhausting, it litterally drains you, i will try this next time. thank you very much.

April 1, 2013
9:27 pm
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dougmccoy
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wow! thank you for this. i really enjoyed reading and i think i can use your suggestions in the future.

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