When someone says to you, “Just relax,” what is the first thing that we find ourselves doing? Either consciously or subconsciously we take a deep breath. It’s fascinating how by taking just on breath, in that moment, our body immediately feels the results with a calmer state of being. Taking a deep breath is one of the best ways to treat stress and heal broken wounds.
Stress kills. A good example of this can be seen when we look at the effects that trauma has on victims of domestic violence. Commonly, they suffer from “adolescent pregnancy, unintended pregnancy in general, miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine hemorrhage, nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases,” according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs… studies suggest that there is a relationship between intimate partner violence and depression and suicidal behavior.” Victims of violence live in a war zone. Instead of home being a place of safety and security it is a hub of constant fear and uncertainty. The body is constantly on defense causing our innate “fight or flight” response to never rest or recover.
Stress comes in several different forms. Not only do victims of violence suffer from extreme levels of stress, but so do those who have to endure grief perhaps because of the loss of a loved one, and day to day work stress can cause a sufferer significant damage. Breaking away from harmful environments is essential to survival but also it’s important for us to understand how to help ourselves heal from trauma and mange stress more effectively in general.
The American Institute of Stress explains, “To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response… the relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension). ” So what is the best way to relax and manage levels of stress? The AIS answers that question, “there is one “Super Stress Buster” that evokes the relaxation response that we widely recommend as useful for everyone- even kids. Can you guess what it is? BREATHING! That is right, simply breathing. It is free and can be practiced anywhere… The key, of course, is focused breathing.” Simply breathing can do so much to better our overall health and well-being. This does not require an individual to take on transcendental mediation as practiced in Middle Eastern culture, it just means learning how to use breathing as a technique that calms the body and repairs the parasympathetic nervous system.
To be effective, AIS recommends that abdominal deep breathing is done for 20 to 30 minutes a day either sitting or lying down. However, even if we don’t take a full 20 to 30 minutes each day for focused breathing we can still feel the temporary relief from taking a few focused breathes between task. We may need to find time in our schedule to dedicate 20 or 30 minutes to breathing or start with 5 min each morning and then work up to it. I’ve created a 30 day system to help combat stress and break toxic cycles and each day I encourage a participator to take some time to relax, take a deep breath, and then complete the task assigned.
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