Have you ever paid too much attention to your breathing patterns when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Likely not in the moment at least, as your mind is preoccupied with the stress you are feeling, increasing the shallow breathing, and increased heart rate and muscle tension developing in your body. The reason all these physiological sensations are occurring in your body is simply because you have activated the sympathetic nervous system in your body which prepares you for fight or flight. It is busy readying the body to take whatever needed action is required urgently. It’s instinctual nature is preparing you for some sort of danger and knows you need to be ready to respond at a moments notice. And perhaps your adrenaline has kicked in too, as you are overloaded at work, have deadlines that you know you cannot possibly meet because all sorts of other issues came up at the office distracting your time and attention away from your current project, and now you feel the mounting stress in your neck and shoulders and the headache or the knots in your stomach as you imagine the worst case scenario, and fear is kicking in about what will happen if you miss this important deadline. Or maybe it’s a person you don’t get along with and there is mounting stress developing between you and this person. You hate working with them, and are afraid of confrontation, because they have a more strong-willed personality than you or they are that workplace bully that you know you will suffer their wrath if you confront the issues you are having with them and the stress builds slowly, like water in a pot on a hot stove, slowly coming to a boil and finally overflowing because of the mounting tension.

These and other situations can cause massive amounts of stress in life. And our sympathetic nervous system, bless it’s soul, readies us for action we need to take. However, our bodies were not meant to maintain constant stress, as all sorts of physical problems arise as a result. But what do you do with the pesky symptoms of stress in order to calm down? Have you ever noticed that most of these symptoms meant to help us take immediate action also have the tendency to backfire on us as well, say for instance by decreasing our concentration or productivity, or even our ability to perform at all? Perfect case in point… Needing to do a presentation in front of a group of people, and you have a fear of public speaking and more than the nervous butterflies in your stomach, you feel frozen in fear, unable to do your job? Sometimes we need to take action and require that boost of adrenaline or increase of oxygen to the heart to take flight or fight. But often the stressors we face inducing the fight, flight or freeze response tend to be counter productive.

What does breathing have anything to do with what I have been talking about this whole time? Some of you may already know, those of you who practice mindfulness exercises will already be familiar with what I am about to say, but for those of you who are curious about what is going on in the body and why what i am about to tell you actually works, will be well informed in just a moment! Deep breathing… Not shallow or even regular breathing, but breathing in deeply to at least a 5 count and then breathing out slowly and deeply as well, triggers what is known as the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body responsible for the rest and digest functions in the body. Deep breathing activates the part of our brain that tells us to calm down, to rest, to relax, to unwind. You may not be able to take tons of time at work to sit back, put your feet up on your desk and take a nap to get that renewed vigor to carry on, but taking deep breaths for 5-10 minutes (or whatever time you have) can quite possibly be the very trick to enable you to complete that project on time! Once you are breathing deeply, you are deactivating the nervous stress energy in your body which is decreasing your functional ability by flooding your emotions with fear or panic. Once you are breathing more deeply, and less labored, you may find you suddenly have more concentration available to complete the task at hand. Now your energy is being devoted to the project, rather than spending so much effort on worrying about the project!

Stay tuned for more stress tips next Friday!

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my monthly webinar on stress management!!  If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

Advertisements