Breathing Exercises to Help Reduce Stress

Stress is so bad for our bodies and most definitely can cause diseases. Studies have found many health problems related to stress. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.    Being a caregiver for anyone is very stressful, and you need to be sure to take care of yourself on all levels, emotionally and physically.   You need to be sure to eat right, get exercise and take care of your mind to relax, so you can have the strength to take care of your loved ones.

Breathing exercises and meditation has so many benefits to our mental and physical health.

We need to stay healthy and strong when taking care of our family members. Especially when dealing with challenges such as dementia. You must take care of your mind, body and your soul. This will allow you stay healthy while these challenges in your life.   Taking a few minutes in the day to close your eyes and breathe is so beneficial.  The most important aspect of meditation is the breath.

Research shows that breathing exercises have a powerful effect on how we deal with stress. Taking deep breaths can help you voluntarily regulate your Autonomic Nervous  System. This has many benefits — especially lowering your heart rate, regulating blood pressure, and helping you relax. All of which help decrease how much of the stress hormone cortisol is released into your body. We can induce positive or negative emotions by changing the rhythm of the breath.

For years they thought that the brain stem was solely responsible for breathing, but a study found that paced breathing uses neural networks beyond the brain stem that are tied to emotion, attention and awareness.   By tapping into the brain we gain access to a tool for us to reduce our stress levels.  Fast, quick breathing causes feelings of anxiety or fear, but slowing down the breath, slows down the nervous system and helps you relax.  This is what we do when we meditate.   We sit quietly and pay attention to our breath and let it come slowly, which slows down the nervous system.  Our breath is so powerful and so many people do not realize that they always carry this tool with them.

Feeling Stressed?

So, when you feel stressed, sit down get comfortable, close your eyes and notice your breath.   You do not have to stay there for a long time, just a few minutes and you will feel the difference in your body.  When you focus on your breathing exercises you can say to yourself, “Breath in, breath out” and try to focus on those words.    The mind will wonder for sure, but if other thoughts are coming in, just recognize them and let them fly away like a butterfly and bring your attention again back to your slow, deep breaths.

Here are some instructions for a short meditation of breathing exercising you can do when you feel stress coming.  This is a short instruction on how to do a short meditation to help reduce the stress and be a better caregiver.

Sit up straight in a chair or the floor and begin

-Open your chest and your heart, let the air come into the chest as it moves up, then feel the belly expand slightly, then let the breath go as your chest falls and abdomen contracts slightly.  Sitting up straight helps get good air into the lungs.

-Breathe in and out of your nose.

-Focus awareness on the breath and notice how you feel after taking a few deep breaths.

-Notice any tension in the body and let it go as you breathe in and out.

-Notice the thoughts that come into the mind and let them go and go back to focusing on the breath.

-Do not be upset if at first you are thinking a lot, this takes time.  Just a few minutes a day, can make a difference in your stress level.  The breath is controlling your nervous system and telling your body that everything is fine. Therefore there is no need to be stressed.

-Just sit and be in the present moment.  Let the thoughts come and go and concentrate on the breath. You can say to yourself, “Breathe in and breathe out”. Notice any tension in your body and let it go and continue to focus on the breath.

– You can also take long exhales and make a sigh, which also helps the nervous system to relax.

-If you do these breathing exercises 10 to 15 minutes a day, you will feel a difference in yourself.  You will be taking care of yourself, so you will be able to be a better caregiver.

A heartfelt thank you to our friend, Karen Naids RN for the above article.