I’ve read countless articles down the years about stress and how to combat it, manage it and alleviate it. It’s almost always written though like we are passive human beings fighting against the uncontrollable.
But what would happen to your mindset if you were much more in control of any potentially stressful situation.
I first learnt about breathing techniques whilst working in broadcast media. After committing to learning more, I found they put you in the dominant position when it comes to how you live your life and the potential stress triggers you face. You need to experience them to believe that!
‘You are how you breathe’ is a mantra I’ve been eulogising since I first learnt about the power of the breath in 1995 via Dr Len McEwan, a world leading expert in hyperventilation.
It helped me to control my own breathing in the heady world of broadcast media in which I worked at the time, facing deadlines and that daunting mixing desk! I became fascinated how changing from my unknown dysfunctional breathing to a ‘normal’ state reduced my stress, enhanced my mood and productivity at work and in life.
Not everyone I come across at regular workshops I deliver to companies and organisations can describe what constitutes ‘normal breathing’ but many recognise some traits of dysfunctional breathing. The main problem is that there are many hidden signs of dysfunctional breathing. Likewise, the same can be said of the causes.
Normal breathing is light, quiet, effortless, soft, through the nose, tummy-based, rhythmic, gently paused on the exhale. There are three levels of breathing: So softly that the person next to you can’t hear you breathe; so softly that you can’t hear yourself breathe; so softly that you cannot FEEL yourself breathe.
The traits of dysfunctional Breathing include mouth breathing*, audible breathing during rest, regular sighing, sniffing, yawning with big breaths, large breaths prior to talking plus lots of upper chest & visible movement.
The causes of over breathing are always multi-factored and include processed foods, overeating, lack of exercise, excessive talking, stress in its many forms, habitual big breaths, high temperatures in houses, asthma and genetic pre-disposition.
The absolute key to helping anyone suffering from stress and anxiety starts with both mindset changes and arming them with methods to improve their breathing.
For example, the sooner you adopt a mindset along the lines of 10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you respond, the sooner you begin to relieve pressure and stress in perhaps making the wrong decisions by reacting negatively to any one potentially stressful situation. Notice how I referred to ‘react’ here. Never react, always respond…there’s a very important and subtle difference that can bring vastly different outcomes.
In the process of normalising your breathing and being in control of your breathing rate, switch to nasal breathing at all times, stop big breathing, take light physical exercise (‘efficient’ nose breathing only) and practice breathing exercises to reduce breathing volume to normal. My preferred method is the Buteyko method and www.resetbreathing.com reveals more about the exercises.
To help support normal breathing, consider these lifestyle tips which also help to maintain productivity and wellness:
- Diet – keep it unprocessed and non-beige
- Tongue Posture – keep it on the spot and pallet. Poor tongue posture can cause mouth breathing. Ask your dentist too if you have a tongue tie.
- Exercise, if only mildly, mouth closed!
- Eliminate sighing, sniffing, big yawning, big deep breaths…it’s a complete myth that the latter is good for you!
- Overthinking – eradicate negative thoughts by focussing on the breath
- Use carbonated water when enduring a talkative day! This replaces the C02 lost when speaking, helps restore balance and inadvertently can fend off anxiety
- Technology – focus on the breath during laptop/mobile phone use
- Sleep – put your brain to bed two hours before yourself
- Live more in the parasympathetic
*Pictured: Managers from Liverpool’s most successful independent hospitality business Graffiti Spirits Group practising nose breathing only during a Reset workshop recently.