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If we have experienced a traumatic childhood, it is frequently the case that our capacity to deal with stress as adults is seriously diminished (click here to read one of my articles about this).
When we experience stress, it almost invariably involves unpleasant physical symptoms; these include :
– dry mouth/throat
– upset stomach
– frequent urges to pass urine
– muscular twitches
– inability to settle/restlessness/fidgeting
– tingling sensations in hands/feet
– muscle weakness
– muscle tension
– shallow, fast breathing – also known as hyperventilating (this worsens the anxiety so it is extremely useful to learn techniques to help control this – see below)
– dilated pupils
– loss or increase in appetite
– rapid, uneven or pounding heart beat
– a feeling of nausea
– sleep difficulties
– over-alertness/feeling extremely ‘on edge’ (this is also sometimes referred to as ‘hypervigilance’ or ‘hyperarousal’)
– aches and pains (eg in the back)
This is not an exhaustive list, but covers most of the main physical symptoms people tend to experience when suffering from the effects of excessive stress.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS :
It sounds too simple to be true, but one of the most effective methods for dealing with the physical symptoms of stress, such as those listed above, is to use controlled breathing techniques.
Normally, of course, breathing is an unconscious process. However, by taking conscious control, for a short period of time, over how we breathe, we can very significantly ameliorate the unpleasant physical sensations which can accompany stress. By changing how we breathe, we can dramatically change how the act of breathing makes our bodies feel.
The beneficial breathing technique which I refer to has been called by various different names – ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, ‘paced respiration’ or, rather less grandly, ‘deep breathing.’ Its physiological effect is simple but effective ; it increases oyygen levels in our bodies and decreases levels of carbon dioxide.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF THIS TYPE OF BREATHING TECHNIQUE?
Research is now showing that this conscious breathing technique is much more powerful, and has far more benefits, than people had, hitherto, been aware of. These are :
A) the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated into action and this counters the ‘fight or flight response’ triggered by our sympathetic nervous system
B) it reduces the physical damage stress can do to the body by lowering levels of cortisol (cortisol – a hormone – levels can dangerously increase in response to excessive stress)
C) it increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps to keep us calm
D) it lowers our blood pressure and our heart rate thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease
E) new research now suggests it actually helps a part of the brain involved in attentional processes to grow larger
F) recent research also provides evidence that it helps to improve our immune system
THE DEEP BREATHING TECHNIQUE :
Below I describe a simple breathing technique that helps to counter the effects of stress :
1) Get into as comfortable a position as possible
2) Close eyes
3) Drop jaw and shoulders
4) Allow muscles, especially if you can feel that some muscle groups are particularly tense, to relax as much as possible. Don’t worry if they do not feel completely relaxed.
5) Breathe SLOWLY and DEEPLY, IN THROUGH NOSE, OUT THROUGH MOUTH
6) Try to FILL LUNGS as much as possible by EXPANDING ABDOMEN and RAISING RIBCAGE
7) HOLD BREATH FOR 3-6 SECONDS
8) BREATHE OUT SLOWLY AND TRY TO COMPLETELY EMPTY LUNGS (allow abdomen and ribcage to relax to help with this)
Sessions should be at least 5 minutes (although even a shorter length of time is helpful) and the breathing exercise should be carried out without straining.
Mindfulness meditation therapy is becoming increasingly recognized, due to recent and current research being conducted at universities world wide, as being extremely effective for treating stress, anxiety and many other conditions.
MINDFULNESS TRAINING MP3 – CLICK HERE
STRESS MANAGEMENT MP3 – CLICK HERE
Above e-books available for instant download on Amazon. $4.99 each.(Other titles available).CLICK HERE.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).