In the last thirty years or so there has been a huge increase in awareness and therefore approaches to stress management and relaxation.
However, the easiest way to calm down + relax is to focus on breathing.
Conscious breathing + meditation are ways of reducing stress by reintegrating mind with body. Concentration on breathing, sometimes with the use of mantras or special words, is key to many different meditation practices.
Meditation is quite simply stilling the mind; taking the mind from its busy, chattering state and focusing on just one thing. (1)
Using the naturally calming flow of our breath leads us to a state of easy relaxation.
When the mind relaxes the body relaxes too and we move from the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response to a state of balance. Then, when we are in that balanced state our bodies actually begin to heal. This state is known as ‘rest and repair’.
Although we generally have a much higher standard of living than our grandparents and even our parents, it is coming to us at a cost to our health and over-all well-being.
We put pressure on ourselves to be ‘doing’ something all the time and to being perfect. This has led to the act of relaxation becoming something so difficult + even a foreign concept to many. The re-learning of how to simply ‘be’, to relax and do nothing has become big business.
We need some stress in life, some challenges to help us grow and feel good about ourselves. But too much stress can lead to disease. Different studies have indicated anything from between 70 to 90% of all disease and disorder states come from too much stress in our lives.
Currently we are seeing a staggering increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is stress on steroids!
Complementary and alternative therapies all induce deep relaxation, and therefore the rest and repair response.
But what about those times when you can’t get to the therapist?
Conscious breathing and meditation can be used at anytime to achieve a sense of balance and along with it reduce blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and put you in rest and repair mode.
Here’s a simple exercise for you to try:
Find a comfortable, relaxed place to sit. Keep your back straight and if you are in a chair, uncross your legs and place your feet flat on the floor.
Pay attention to your breath. You don’t have to do anything, just become aware of breathing in and out.
Be aware, you are not trying to do anything with your breath. You have quite simply just switched to observing it. There is no right or wrong way to breathe, so relax and breathe.
And, as you watch your breath, you will begin to notice that it naturally slows down + you start to feel calmer, more peaceful.
As you relax and your breath deepens you will notice that your body starts to relax too. You may notice your shoulders dropping away from your ears and your tummy becomes softer as the breath goes deeper into your lungs.
Close your eyes now and simply breathe for a while. If that was difficult or you’d like to try for a little longer just click on the word ‘breathe’ for some more tips to help you breathe!
Conscious Breathing for Stress Management
Both conscious breathing and meditation have been cited in numerous studies around the world to have beneficial effects on: anxiety, stress, insomnia, panic symptoms, hypertension and heart disease, headaches, social and generalized anxiety disorders and substance abuse.(2)
I have seen the benefits over the years I’ve been teaching conscious breathing and meditation to clients and students to include the above and irritability, digestive disorders, during labor, low self-worth and more. I even suggest it as a tool to work with weight reduction!
Each of my hypnotherapy digital audio recordings or CDs take you through a guided relaxation and use conscious breathing to achieve a state of deep relaxation. Meditation has two different short guided visualizations with breathing and is the perfect tool for making deep relaxation therapy a self-help therapy. I have a sample on the site for you to listen to before you purchase.
(1) Meditation may be used for much broader goals i.e. a sense of more awareness of being connected to spirit. The purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of meditation as a relaxation technique.
(2) Sultanoff B & Zalaquett C, Clinicians’ complete reference to complementary and alternative medicine, Mosby 2000, p117