Stress & the power of breath for balance
Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure…
We generally use the word stress when we feel that everything seems to have become “too much”, We are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.
Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses get you going and they are good for you – without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when the stresses undermine both our mental and physical health they are bad.
Stress can effect your body, behavior, as well as your thoughts and feelings causing a plethora of physical and emotional problems. Recognizing your own stress triggers and becoming aware of what you can do for yourself is key when combating stress. We are our best allies and although it may seem hard in the moment we ourselves are our most powerful stress reducer. All you need to do is Breath.
The breath is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for self-regulation, energy generation, and overall health. Even though we are constantly inhaling and exhaling, the power of breath can be elusive to many of us.
To understand the effect breathing has on the body, it’s important to acknowledge the nuances of the autonomic nervous system, the bodily system that regulates the internal organs, instincts, and other primal functions typically outside our conscious awareness. This system has two control functions, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When our breathing is short and rapid, our stress hormones kick into gear—the kind of gear that originally told us “There is danger here, I must flee!” Today’s more mundane stressors, such as, “I have to send this e-mail before my deadline,” or “I’m really upset at so-and-so,” tax our system and can drain our adrenals, leaving us depleted. We suffer from burnout and need more practices that attend to our inner nurturing—our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is our “rest-and-digest” mode, which aids in dropping the heart rate and blood pressure, initiating a state of calm.
Simply saying “Stop and take a breath” may seem easier said than done, but at Tools for Wellness we have an amazing product from Heartmath that is designed to do just that! Take a look:
emWave2 is a handheld interactive device that provides a discreet and effective solution for reducing stress anytime, anywhere. Small enough to fit in a purse or pocket, the emWave2 is a portable and convenient way to reduce stress, balance emotions, and increase performance. Now with a computer interface, the emWave2 allows you to have portability and detailed tracking and feedback through a desktop application.
The emWave2 helps the operator to align their breathing and heart rhythms, and through changing one’s emotional focus, shows the user how to change his/her physiology.
When we use the breath skillfully, we can support the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, ensuring healthy physiological responses. Different breath practices can ignite different states—either elevating energy or relaxing the body. We can control our emotional states and activate the parasympathetic or sympathetic systems, depending on what we need and how we’re feeling. Anxiety, poor sleep, and stress are significant factors in chronic health conditions—all of which could be improved by disciplined attentiveness to the breath.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh