Stress management: A breathing relaxation exercise away

We’ve all been there – we have been stressed to the point we don’t feel we have the tools to manage all of the demands in our lives.  Stress management is a must.

Stress can occur short-term or long-term, and some relaxation techniques allow us to manage this stress –  something necessary for our health’s sake.

Stress symptoms: Damage is physical, mental and emotional

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to your health and safety. The body responds to being stressed out by releasing stress hormones.

These hormones make blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels go up.

In the short term, stress is your ‘fight or flight’ trigger that aims to helps you cope with tough situations, but it can manifest itself in the form of trouble sleeping to headaches, stomach aches, loss of libido, an achy back, increased susceptibility to getting sick, irregular menstrual cycles, erectile dysfunction, and heartburn.

Long-term or chronic stress can lead to a variety of even more severe health problems, according to the National Institute of Health.

When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. According the American Psychological Association, the longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example.

Numerous studies have shown that emotional stress brought on from something such as finding out a spouse has been unfaithful or a loved one’s death can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias and even in rare cases lead to sudden death. Anger is an especially toxic emotion.

Most effective relaxation exercise: Breathing

The most simple and useful tool to manage your stress, that I have taught, is a relaxation technique called the 4-7-8 Breath Relaxation Exercise. It’s simple, quick, no equipment needed, inexpensive – and in fact free – and you can use this stress relief technique anywhere and anytime!

6 part breathing relaxation exercise for stress management

This exercise will help you manage daily stress and its effects on your mind and body. It can also calm the nervous system and increase focus.

To prevent the negative effects stress can have on your health and happiness, practice this easy 6 part relaxation exercise step by step.

  1. Sit down with your back straight (or you can do this standing as well if you’re comfortable).
  2. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of the tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the entire exercise. Be mindful of this.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. (keep your tongue in the position at the gum line above your 2 front teeth)
  4. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, filling your belly.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  6. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Effect of this relaxation technique

When eliciting the relaxation response, you reach a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS).

  • Your metabolism slows down
  • Your breathing gradually slows, becoming relaxed
  • Your heart beats at a lower rate and your muscles lose tension, relaxing
  • Your blood pressure decreases
  • Your levels of nitric oxide are increased, helping cells communicate

This relaxation exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system, unlike drugs, which are often effective when you first take them, but ineffective over time and with significant side effects and habitual possibilities.

You can use this relaxation technique through breathing whenever anything upsetting happens, even before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension or it can very useful in helping with trouble sleeping.

You should do this at least twice a day but you can do this up to four times a day. Initially, you may feel lightheaded and that is why you should be seated. But this is once again, an excellent relaxation exercise to manage stress.