Taking a breath replenishes the oxygen to the brain and organs. It helps the cardiopulmonary system spread nutrients throughout the body and moves toxins out. Unfortunately, humans can sometimes make it less beneficial.
Babies breathe very deeply, moving their abdomens and allowing space for their diaphragm to expand. As adults, breathing often becomes tighter. When feeling stress, adults use short, fast breaths that only employ the top third of the lungs. This is a problem since the bottom third of the lungs are actually responsible for two-thirds of breath capacity. Because of impacts like this, the World Health Organization calls stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century.” It creates health costs, missed work, unhappiness, and productivity.
Here are five strategies to tame stress:
1) The 4-7-8 breathing technique popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil. Breathe in through the nose for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of seven. Breathe out through the mouth for a count of eight. Deep breathing has been shown to increase energy, decrease stress and improve posture.
2) Tap the scalp lightly with fingertips for two minutes. This can help increase circulation and bring focus and energy.
3) Add plants, a small water fountain or soft music to your desk. These items can lift spirits and offer a way to refocus.
4) Rub palms together for 30 seconds and then cup them over closed eyes. This technique can relax muscles around the eyes, reducing tension.
5) Take breaks. A five-minute walk can revitalize and refocus your mind.
For more about breathing to help reduce stress, visit Fast Company for “This Breathing Technique Can Help You Stay Focused at Work.”