This is the second of a three part series. In this series we will discuss the sources of stress and then how to deal with them.
Last week we wrote about the meaning and the sources of stress in the first part of this article. This week we want to share with you a few tips and a few practical things you can do if you want to manage your stress. Before we get into the practical part, I would like to share with you the relationships that take place as a result of stress.
For me, the most interesting relationship is that of emotional stress and your breathing. An increase in stress levels causes a physiological impact on your breathing. Searching youtube I came upon this video, now, it illustrates well how an increase in stress will lead to a responses in the breathing. Important to note is that this video was being shown to an audience and people were laughing. I do not endorse that and I am pretty sure that if any of those people laughing were placed in the same situation they would not find it amusing.
Try to recall a situation where you were stressed and try to remember your breathing.
I think that the relationship of stress and breathing is clear. My friend Gustavo from London, has put it very well: “Stress is the psycho-organic state produced by the gap between your potential and the challenges that you need to be face to achieve this.”
But is the opposite true? If your stress can change the way you breathe, can the way you breath change your level of stress?
Well, let us run a little experiment. We are going pay some attention to the way you are breathing and try to observe if that has any effect on you. The exercise will take around 3 minutes and if you would like you can do it for longer.
First a few ground rules: try to breathe exclusively through your nostrils in this exercise. We are going to aim to capture as much air as possible with every breath, therefore, breathe as deeply as you can. In order to enhance your experience we recommend that you sit down in a comfortable position, or that you try this exercise laying down with your back on the floor, your feet on the ground and your knees touching each other.
The abdomen is one of the first parts of the body to tense under stress. Therefore, in our exercise the first step is to expand your abdomen every time you inhale, and contract it when you exhale. The second step is to become conscious of each of the four stages in your breathing process: inhalation, maintaining the lungs full, exhalation and maintaining the lungs empty. The third step is to try to add a rhythm to this breathing, use the measure of 4 seconds and apply it to each of the four stages: inhale in 4 seconds, retain air in your lungs for 4 seconds, exhale in 4 seconds and stay with your lungs empty for 4 seconds. Remember to breathe exclusively with your nostrils and continue this technique for a couple of minutes.
When you finish try to observe your state of mind. The next time you feel you may be starting to feel stressed try this experiment. in simple bullet points:
- Find a comfortable position;
- Breathe exclusively through your nostrils;
- Concentrate on experiencing each of the four stages in your breathing cycle: inhalation, maintaining the lung full, exhalation and maintaining the lungs empty;
- Try to execute each of these stages for 4 seconds;
- Maintain this technique for a couple of minutes, or longer if you feel comfortable.
- If you feel dizzy, stop.
At the end of this technique you should observe yourself, observe your state of mind if there was any change in the level of stress you feel. These steps are a great start at your process of managing stress.
If you find that you do not have a couple of minutes or that maintaining this technique for a couple of minutes is difficult remember one important tip: your most valuable asset is the machinery which carries your brain and allows you to execute all of your dreams and desires — take your time to maintain and care for your body. This simple exercise is a great way of giving yourself a little attention and care.
In the next article in this series we are going to give some other tips about the working of stress and how to manage your stress through other habits in your life.