YES! When we're stressed, when we're anxious, when we're angry AND in fact EVERY day. Let me explain....
Our brain is hard wired to protect and survive; a small primitive but powerful part of our brain, the amygdala, is constantly alert for signals of danger. It's the part of our brain which kick starts the "Fight/Flight/Freeze" survival response. It works amazingly!! And the physiological process occurring in the survival response is truly incredible! Unfortunately the amygdala, whilst it's looking out for us, is not a rational part of our brain and can kick off in a split second when it interprets threat. Unfortunately the "threat" may not actually be a "life or death" threat but our body is motivated, infact propelled, into responding at its optimum performance. Great when we find ourselves being attacked by a dangerous animal (hmm I'm encountering tigers all the time!!) and when we need to be functioning at our optimum for a deadline or an exam but not so great when its triggered constantly by everyday stressors. The stress response constantly "kicking off" has a negative effect on our physical health - it's exhausting for one! It impacts our immune system, our digestive system, our cardiovascular system. After all its purpose is to ensure immediate safety, here and now, not for the long term. So when the instinctive brain perceives a "life or death" scenario (that isn't always "life or death"!!) then at that moment, fighting disease, replenishing skin cells, digesting food effectively is not a priority.
is interpreted by the brain that we're not safe. In time we end up being unwell, with more colds, with reflux and indigestion, with high blood pressure and with stress accumulating it can also lead to depression and anxiety.
There's lots of ways to relax and release yourself from the survival / stress response. For instance Yoga, Tai Chi, Mindful meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, massage, breathing exercises.
Deep breathing, often referred to as diaphragmatic breathing allows us to take a full natural breath, optimising oxygen exchange. By deliberately activating a healthy diaphragmatic breath it indicates to our brain that we are in a relaxed peaceful state to heal, to digest, replenish skin cells, fight infection and helps to lower blood pressure..... it helps us relax and can help us manage stressful and anxiety provoking situations.
So we can use this type of breathing in stressful situations, for instance, I still use breathing exercises to "breath through" my dentist appointment if I have to have work done! Focusing on the breath can help manage pain; its not a case of simply "distracting" yourself with breathing but allowing yourself to "breath through" the pain - its no surprise that mothers have been taught breathing exercises to help in labour (note: no one said a breathing exercise made labour pain free mind!) Recently I fell and hurt my back and whilst doing yoga the other day my back went into an excrutiating spasm but focussing on the breath got me through it.
already snapped the boss's head off! Taking a moment every now and then to just regulate our breathing can help us keep on top of things, to let go of building tension and possibly even to help us stay physically healthy too.
When I was first taught to do diaphragmatic breathing I was told to put one hand on my chest and one on my stomach and to make sure that as I took a breath in to watch my stomach rise and as I took a breath out watch my stomach fall...... well that's certainly what it should look like but try making yourself do that! How un-natural can breathing naturally feel?!!! You can use "7/11" breathing or a "breathing square" - what ever works for you but why not...
Try this instead...
TOP TIP: If you're angry breathing exercises can help too but avoid starting by taking a deep breath in, instead, take a breath out, blow out (make sure the balloon is empty before gently inflating it again! And aim to focus on calm breath) The reason for this is when we're angry a deep breath in can energise us into acting and that isn't always helpful when we might be better helped by taking a step back and thinking before acting!
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Integrative Psychotherapist, Nurse Specialist (Mental Health), Mum, Youth Worker, Trainer.......