Has work-life ever been so stressful that you’ve snapped at the smallest things?
Perhaps it was your partner’s indecisiveness about what to cook for dinner? The volume of the TV? Or someone cutting you off on the road.
We’ve all been there.
But what’s even worse, is when some well-meaning person says, “You need to breathe”.
Is that even helpful? Or does it spark some serious frustration and annoyance?
Although it’s not usually what we want to hear when we’re feeling stressed or worked up – and yes, it could be reworded in a much less irritating way – breathing is one of the best things we can do. And there’s evidence to prove it.
The things we feel influence the way we breathe.
When we’re feeling happy, we breathe in a way that’s regular, deep, and slow. And when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or angry, our breathing is irregular, fast, and shallow.
The way we breathe also influences the things we feel … which means, changing one (our feelings or our breathing), can change the other.
When we inhale, our heart rate speeds up. When we exhale, it slows down.
Regular, deep, slow breathing signals relaxation. It triggers our vagus nerve*, which “switches off” our stress and our negative feelings and helps us feel calm.
Because breathing happens automatically, many of us don’t pay any attention to it – but it’s important to remember the power it has over the way we feel.
So, the next time you’re feeling like things are just getting a bit much in work-life, try changing your breathing, specifically lengthening your exhales. You can try this by breathing in for a count of four, and breathing out for a count of eight.
The key to switching of your stress — making your breaths out longer than your breaths in.
Practice doing this even when you’re not feeling stressed – it’ll train your body to be able to “switch-off your stress” more quickly in those trying and challenging times.
*The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body after stress or threat. This is in contrast with the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our “fight, flight or freeze” responses.