An Easy, Yet Powerful Stress Management Tip
Last week, I had a stressful interaction with someone at work. As I continued to try to reason with the person, I become more agitated. Ideally, I would have left the area to take a brisk walk. Even a five minute walk can be very helpful for reducing stress, calming down and gaining a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, I could not leave the area due to time constraints. Fortunately, I remembered a stress management method that can be done anywhere and anytime: deep breathing. Deep breathing seems like it would be too simple to work, but it is surprisingly effective.
According to researchers, your breathing becomes shallower when you are under stress. Your heart rate and blood pressure increases, causing blood to flow more rapidly from your brain to your arms and legs. This is the classic fight-or-flight stress response that instantly mobilizes your body to enable it to respond to danger. However, with less oxygen available to your brain, you don’t think as objectively. This is unfortunate, because during stress, you really need to think clearly.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to undo the stress reaction. Slow, deep breathing will help reverse your body’s fight-or-flight stress response. When you take slow, deep breaths, you decrease the accumulation of carbon dioxide in your body, thereby increasing oxygen to your brain. This enables you to think more clearly and regain control of your thought processes.
Whenever you take deep breaths, oxygen begins to saturate the alveoli, the lungs innermost air sacs. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This makes you feel calm almost immediately.
It sounds almost too good to be true: simply breathing deeply can make you happier and more relaxed? But it’s been proven scientifically. The May 2011 issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology featured a study conducted by researchers at Toho University of Medicine in Japan. The researchers taught healthy men and women to breathe deeply into their abdomen for twenty minutes.
Immediately after their deep breathing session, the subjects were tested. It was found that they had more of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin in their bloodstream. This would explain why they reported fewer negative feelings. They also had more oxygenated hemoglobin in their prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is associated with attention and high-level processing. Simply by breathing deeply for twenty minutes, they were able to concentrate better and think more creatively.
This is what I did, as I continued to interact with the person I mentioned above. I took deep breathes for a couple minutes and I quickly started to feel more relaxed. I was able to calm down and find a creative solution that was acceptable to everyone.