Friday, December 14, 2007

Breathing Techniques Help Control Stress

Ask Glen!

Q. Glen, Do breathing techniques control stress

A. Breathe in deeply to a count of four and out again slowly. There. Don’t you feel calmer? Yes.........................

Most of us are familiar with the term “fight or flight,” also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. The brain signals hormones that rouse us to action. Breathing quickens to take in more oxygen, the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten, and senses sharpen.

When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. It allows us to avoid an impending accident and help rescue people in a disaster. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.

Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. Often people try to relieve the pressure by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, or develop bad habits like smoking or overeating.

We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. It’s a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.

In meditation, for example, heartbeat and respiration slow, the body’s rate of oxygen consumption drops steeply, and blood lactate levels, which some researchers believe are linked to panic attacks, decline markedly. Blood pressure stabilizes in healthy people and drops in people with hypertension.

Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.

The benefits of deep breathing

When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises. It’s an inborn skill that often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap into one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.

Yet for many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.

Breathing engages the diaphragm, a strong sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. As you breathe in, the diaphragm drops down, pulling your lungs with it and pressing against abdominal organs to make room for the lungs to expand as they fill with air. As you breathe out, the diaphragm presses back up against your lungs, helping to expel carbon dioxide.

Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs — with its many small blood vessels that are crucial to carrying oxygen to cells — doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.

Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.

Practicing breath focus

Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It’s especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach.

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Start by noting the difference between breathing normally and breathing deeply. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times while paying attention to how you feel. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.

Practice deep breathing for several minutes. Put one hand on your stomach just below your navel. Feel the hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall back the same amount each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of breath focus. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax. For example, imagine that the air you breathe in brings peace and calm into your body. As you breathe out, imagine that the air leaving your body carries tension and anxiety away with it. As you inhale, try repeating a phrase to yourself, such as “Breathe in peace and calm.” And as you exhale, say: “Breathe out tension and anxiety.” To start, 10 minutes of breath focus is a reasonable goal. Gradually increase your session to 20 minutes.

Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program. Please consult your physician !

Wishing You A Healthy Life Style!

Any questions?

Ask Glen!

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Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States
Is the Founder of Fitness Builders 4 Life,the WorkOut GEM,G350,G180, G90, Eat 4 Life, Clean, Lean & Mean & Ask Glen. The mission of the Fitness Builders is to provide the community with health education and to empower people to change unhealthy lifestyles thereby increasing life expectancy. By educating the community on healthier lifestyle practices it is the intent of Fitness Builders to reduce the ravages of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other lifestyle or self inflicted diseases. Glen is also a AMA Certified Nutrition Specialist and a ACE, ACSM, NASM Certified Personal Trainer has 30+ years in Sports, Exercise Science and Nutritional Food Management, Learning and Mentoring Men and Women on a more Mental & Physical Healthy Life Style consisting of a low fat, low salt, Low carbohydrate, high protein, organic nutrition which also includes moderate exercise and mental awareness. Stay Informed, Live long and be Mentally and Physically Healthy! Any questions? Ask Glen!

Any Questions? Ask Glen!