Take a deep breath. Right now. Go on, I'll wait here.
How does that feel?
You can do this anywhere, anytime, and it will almost always make you feel better, especially if you're feeling stressed.
of the effects of stress is to constrict your breathing, making it
faster, shallower, and higher in the chest. This stressed breathing
style makes you feel psychologically
more stressed, and so it can begin a negative feedback loop that might
lead to health problems. In a study of a 153 heart attack patients,
researchers found that almost all of them were primarily shallow
breathers or "chest breathers."
The authors of New Directions in Progressive Relaxation Training
say that shallow, rapid breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous
system — the part of your nervous system responsible for stress
reactions. "People can predispose themselves to anxious and tense inner
experience," write the authors, "by breathing in this way."
is some evidence that people who suffer from panic attacks keep their
carbon dioxide too low by shallow breathing, which keeps them in a state
of semi-hyperventilation. Apparently panic-attack sufferers notice the
symptoms of hyperventilation such as feeling dizzy or a pounding heart
or feelings of suffocation, they think something terrible is happening,
and it scares them, which of course makes their heart pound even more,
making them breathe faster, etc. Taking a deep breath can often stop
this cycle. And a deep breath can make anyone feel more relaxed.
we breathe automatically, without any conscious effort on our part, we
can also voluntarily control the way we breathe, and when we do, we gain
more voluntary control of our moods and our feelings of well-being.
method is to take a deep breath, somewhat slowly, and let it out
slowly. If you've got the time and inclination, do it a few times. This
is one of the simplest things you can do to reduce your stress and feel
Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.