Sunday, December 7, 2014

Just Breathe!

It's one of the simplest things we do, yet it has become one of the most complicated things as well.  Breathing!  
Breathing occurs in two different ways, when relaxed and when under duress.

Why is has it become complicated?   In one word, STRESS.
Our bodies response to stress, whether its from someone attacking us or from a deadline at work, is typically the same biologically speaking.  It results in an increase in cortisol and a difference in how we breathe.  

You may have heard me mention cortisol and how it can wreak havoc on fat storage.  This comes down to increases in stress.  The bodies normal response to immediate stress is a short increase in cortisol.  This gives us a quick burst of energy, sharpens our memory, increases our immunity, and decreases our sensitivity to pain.  These are all important and natural functions of cortisol and ensure that we are able to weather the curve balls that life throws at us.

However, and this is a big one, if the stress doesn't let up, neither does the cortisol.  Unfortunately, what is healthy in small bursts becomes dangerous over the long term.  If you have persistent stress in your life, then you have cortisol levels that are out of balance:  your body makes so much cortisol that it detrimentally affects your health.  For example, increases in abdominal fat or our ability to breathe.

Ideally we want to just breathe using our diaphragms, however when we're stressed or under duress, or even when we're exercising, we use other muscles as well.  For example, we use our chest and neck muscles as well.  What this ends up leading to is tightness in your neck, shoulders, and/or back.  

What I want you to do now is lay on your back, take a deep breathe in, and notice 1 of 2 things.  Did you belly rise or did your chest rise?

If you're like most people, you saw a big rise in your chest over your belly.  

What does that mean?  Probably that you are in a constant state of "panic breathing" or "compensatory breathing."
Take a look at this!

In addition, try some of these tactics:
•    Reduce stress.  Easier said than done.  Learning how to cope with stress more effectively may be all it takes to balance your cortisol.
•    Be consistent with Sleep.  Going to bed at the same time each night will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Practice this habit to ensure you get enough sleep.
•    Exercise.  This is a great way to reduce stress, however it doesn't have to be all out, exhausting exercise.  It can be movement, like going for a walk.  

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