efore you read this, just stop for a few seconds and take a deep breath. I’ll do it too.
What was that like for you?
It was actually difficult for me to take a full inhalation. I noticed my shoulders rising and something cracked in my upper back, and my throat and neck were really tense (is that even a thing?), but it did feel relaxing a little too. It also reminded me that I haven’t taken a deep breath in a while!
Ok, we will come back to that in a minute, but let’s talk about stress for a bit first.
We often associate stress with being negative, harmful or something that we need to get rid of, or reduce. While there is definitely truth to this, stress is also a natural response of our nervous system to a threat, causing hormones to be released into our body and signaling our brain to take action. It is a primal and very necessary part of how we thrive as human beings. When it becomes a challenge is when we are not sure how to handle a certain situation or perceived threat. For most of us today, these threats are disguised as expectations that we have of ourselves or others, interpersonal conflicts, changes in routine, finances and many other daily challenges.
Stress is something that has become so familiar, for every member of the family. We live such busy lives, at all stages of life – adults, teens and children. Think about how many times you were able to sit quietly throughout your day today (screen time does not count!). For many of us, it is not nearly enough. Between work, school, drop offs and pick-ups, extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, preparing and eating meals, homework and watching television or playing on a tablet, there really isn’t much time left to just be. To relax. To just sit and breathe.
So how can you help yourself and the people around you to begin reducing stress in their life? Breathe. Breathe deeply. It is a very simple action that everyone can do, and can really make a huge impact on your physical and mental health. Some of the benefits of breathing are:
- Increase of blood flow and oxygen throughout the body which can release tension
- Decrease in blood pressure that can cause headaches and more serious medical issues
- Increased energy
- A calmer mind
- Improves digestion
- Decreases inflammation in the body
So, let me tell you about a simple breathing exercise that you can do on your own, or with your family. I tried this with my (almost) 4 year old, and he was able to do it with me too. Actually, I think that even my 11 month old benefits from the calming energy in the room. He knew something positive was happening.
Start by turning off the television, and putting away all electronic devises. Some quiet music can be nice, but not necessary. Just sitting in the quiet room can be quite calming on its own actually. Uncross your legs and rest your hands on your lap. Try to release any noticeable tension in your body – your shoulders, hands, abdominal muscles. Then exhale all the air that you have in your lungs. Wait 2 seconds, and the inhale deeply and slowly through your nose and allow your belly to expand as you do. Then slowly exhale through your mouth until your lungs are emptied again. Repeat this 10 times.
When doing this activity with children, it can help if they can use their imagination a little. Prompt them to breathe like a whale, blowing air out their blow hole, or encouraging them to expand their belly like a balloon and then blow fairy dust out of their mouth. That should help to keep their attention for at least 5 breaths, if not the whole 10!
Try this deep breathing exercise today, and let us know how it goes. We would love to hear from you in the comment section below, or through our Instagram or facebook page. And if stress ever feels overwhelming for your or someone in your family, call us for a free consultation to learn more about how was can help.