Feeling stressed? Try this simple breathing technique

By Faeza
16 May 2016

Work, relationships and money issues are some of a raft of everyday issues which can trigger stress. And when you feel stressed, it can get in the way of dealing with the demands of modern life, and can affect everything you do. As well as trembling nerves, increasing feelings of anxiety may result in a panic attacks, as well as headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness.

However, a simple breathing technique has been found to calm the nerves in seconds by fooling the body into think it is relaxed.

Jane McGonigal, the author of Superbetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient- Powered by the Science of Games, explains that while most people are familiar with the technique of taking deep inhalations to relax themselves, she has a specific technique which is effective at returning the body to a naturally relaxed state.

McGonigal says people feeling stressed should turn to "power breathing", a method which has one simple rule - exhale for double the amount of time you inhale.

For example, you may inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of eight. But if you're feeling particularly worked up, perhaps try inhaling for two counts and then exhaling for four and "then you kind of slow it down more as you go". For those in touch with breathing techniques, inhale for eight seconds and exhale for 16.

By following this technique, it slows down the heart rate and relaxes the muscles, similar to when the body rests or sleeps and ultimately restores calm.

"It turns out that the reason why this works so effectively to calm yourself down is that it triggers a switch in your body’s nervous system from sympathetic nervous system state to parasympathetic," said McGonigal in a video posted on Big Think's YouTube channel. "And parasympathetic is a nervous system state that’s associated with what they call 'rest-and-digest'."

McGonigal said that if used effectively, studies have proven such breathing techniques can stop panic attacks, reduce symptoms of migraine and help stop muscle spasms or cramps.

"You’re basically fooling your brain and body into thinking that you’re already calm and connected, that you’re already at rest by breathing the way you would be breathing if you were naturally in a state of calm and connection," she explained.

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