One of the greatest ways to calm yourself down during a stressful moment is to take a few deep breaths. Often, when we are in the midst of a stressful experience, we either hold our breath, or take short, shallow breaths, as our sypatheric nervous system kicks in (also known as the fight or flight response). This type of breathing does not allow for proper flow of oxygen throughout our body.
So what is a true, deep breath? Many people are unaware that the main muscle involved in breathing is the diaphragm, which sits just below the rib cage. When we breathe properly, this muscle contracts, pushing down towards our belly, allowing our lungs to fully expand. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, pushing up against the lungs, helping to expel air.
Have you ever watched an infant sleeping? Do you recall how the baby’s belly expands? The child is using her diaphragm muscle properly. Unfortunately, as we age, especially in today’s society, the stresses of the world affect our breathing, and we tend to breather using the uppper portion of our lungs. Hence, taking in a breath and your chest rises instead of the belly expanding.
Try this: Lay down flat. Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your belly. Inhale slowly, and see where the breath lands…is it your belly, or your chest? If you feel your chest rising more than your belly, focus on expanding your belly as you inhale. It may take some practice before you master this proper breathing technique.
When you notice your body tensing, take a few minutes to breathe deeply. It can make a world of difference.