Breathe deep to release stress

By Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk

In the recent report entitled The United States of Stress 2018,* a national study of 6,700 Americans ages 18 to 64 years revealed that chronic stress is a national epidemic for all genders and ages. Almost one-third of those surveyed said they visited a doctor about something stress-related. Stress from financial concerns, careers, family responsibilities and relationships can leave us feeling like there’s no time to take care of our personal well-being. However, you can effectively combat stress if you take time for short breaks during the day.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, try a few minutes of deep breathing.

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Breathe in through your nose and let your lungs fill, slowly and fully. Your abdomen will naturally rise, expanding to make room for the air. Then, as you breathe out slowly, pull your abdomen in. Close your eyes and allow your thoughts to drift. Just breathe.

Just like that, you are giving your body what it needs to calm down. As you gently fill your lungs with air and then slowly release your breath, you activate your endocrine system to release neurohormones that trigger the relaxation response. These neurohormones also inhibit stress hormones, too. Deep inside your lungs, the oxygen you bring in nourishes your blood cells and helps them release waste carbon dioxide. As fight-or-flight responses to stress fade, your heart rate returns to normal, tension lifts, and you become calm.

The benefits of releasing stress are clear right away, but there are long term benefits, too, as many chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are exacerbated by stress. The five minutes you spend breathing today could add years to your life in the future.

For more about deep breathing techniques and other stress reduction/relaxation strategies, see yp4h.osu.edu/justbreathe

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