Obstacles are a fact of life, so what can you do when stress and anxiety begins to build up in your chest? Here are 3 simple steps to help you recover and find your next move with a clearer mind.
“Don’t worry, just take a deep breath.”
Seriously, who wants to hear this when they are in a state of emotional overdrive? Your heart’s racing, you can’t think clearly, and you don’t know whether to cry or scream or punch something.
Then someone manages to utter this cliché line that, let’s be real, you most likely ignore because you’re obviously already breathing. How is that really going to solve your problem?
Don’t ignore it. It’s actually some of the best advice you can receive.
Our bodies have this thing called the “fight or flight” response that activates when our proverbial feathers get ruffled under stress, alerting us of danger. The most common signs are increased heart rate and quick, shallow breathing. Typically this will only last for a short period of time, and your body will return to it’s natural rhythm once the “danger” dissipates.
But here’s the problem: when we’re in a state of constant stress, worry, or anxiety, this whole system gets overworked. Our body doesn’t have a chance to return to its normal, unstressed state to recover. This is not good, and can lead to serious health consequences down the road.
However, we have the power to override this system (if you’re not in real danger, of course)!
By focusing all of our energy on taking deep, slow breaths, we can signal the body to return to its relaxed state. You can do it anywhere and anytime, and it doesn’t cost a penny. Instant stress relief that’s free? Yes, please!
Give it a try:
Start by exhaling all the air out of your lungs while pulling in your belly (this contracts the diaphragm muscle), and then take a slow, controlled breath in through your nose, letting your belly expand outward (relaxing the diaphragm muscle), until your lungs are full.
Hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth while pulling in your belly until you’ve squeezed out as much air as you can.
Do this 5 times to start, and repeat for as long as it takes until you feel your body begin to relax.
You may be thinking, this is great, but the breathing still won’t solve my problem.
You’re right, it won’t. But it will calm you down and give you a clearer head to evaluate the situation, making it easier to find a solution.
Voilà! See how that all works out?
HEADER IMAGE: JOHN MARK ARNOLD
Nancy Sidnam, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and health coach helping young women in their teens and 20s create brighter, healthier futures. Through her wellness coaching practice and The Wellie Project community she has created, Nancy inspires young women to take charge of their lives. Nancy focuses on helping them recognize that no matter what circumstances they are facing, it is possible to be healthy, happy, and confident. Learn more about Nancy at The Wellie Life.