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  • Writer's pictureKaren Goold

Breathing Out Stress

As we breathe approximately 20,000 times a day, inhaling and exhaling about 15 to 20 times a minute, you’d think we’d have it all under control. But no!!

Think about the last time you were in a stressful situation, made a big mistake, or felt embarrassed. What probably happened was that you held your breath!

Even being an amateur dancer causes me issues – whenever I’m learning a new dance step, I hold my breath as I concentrate. I get to the end of the routine, exhausted – and then I can start breathing again! You may have noticed dance teachers and fitness trainers reminding people to breath!

This reflex evolved to keep our bodies still when focusing on a physical task that requires concentration and precision. By slowing or stopping our breathing, we reduce the background movements of our bodies and, hopefully, achieve better accuracy in the execution of our carefully planned action.

Nowadays, stress is often the trigger and can affect our breathing pattern without us even noticing. Then we start to feel anxious and our emotions feel out of control.

Unconsciously, we have moved into our sympathetic nervous system and, as a consequence, it’s likely that the muscles in our head, neck and shoulders have become tense. Our adrenal glands will have started to produce adrenaline – the ‘fight or flight’ hormone – and cortisol. At this stage, not only are we likely to argue more (fight) or disengage (flight), our ability to thinking creatively, maintain trust and show compassion also shuts down.

If we’re in an important situation (like competitions, but also other life events), this stress reaction can cause many issues. We want to be able to instantly access our creative and innovative thoughts, but we often find a mind that goes blank.

Take a breath and allow yourself a few seconds of calm instead. It does only take a few seconds, but the following technique can help you get back a sense of control.

• Inhale through your nose for five counts

• Hold your breath for two to four counts

• Exhale slowly through your mouth for seven counts.

• Allow your rib cage to rise and fall without forcing it

• Repeat a few times.

This will eliminate toxins and fully oxygenate your body. It will also start to regulate excess adrenaline and cortisol levels and help you feel calmer.

Next time you’re in a stressful situation, try breathing! It helps 😊

If you’d like to find out more about how coaching can help you with stress, anxiety, self-esteem and confidence, then please contact Karen for an initial discussion.

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