Are you a breath-holder? Many people are chronic breath-holders without even realising it. Breath-holding has a connection to elevated stress levels.
As I was researching for this blog, I came accross a new term.. Email apnea. WHAT?! Is that a joke?! I have certainly heard about Sleep Apnea, but email apnea? My curiousity won this round, and I looked further into it. I was quite surprised at the commonality of it! In fact, I think I am guilty of even doing it myself! It has been shown that many people will hold their breath whilst reading their emails, and also whilst on their electronic devices.
Writer Linda Stone in her "Just Breathe: Building the case for Email Apnea" stated that "Research conducted by Chesney and NIH research scientist, Dr. David Anderson, demonstrated that breath holding contributes significantly to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to re-absorb sodium, and as the oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitric oxide (NO) balance is undermined, our biochemistry is thrown off. Breath-holding and hyperventilating disturb our body's balance of oxygen, CO2, and NO. Nitric oxide, not to be confused with the nitrous oxide used in dental offices, plays an important role in our health. From a briefing document prepared for the Royal Society and Association of British Science Writers, Pearce Wright explains, "The immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, and tumors. Nitric oxide transmits messages between nerve cells and is associated with the processes of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and, probably, depression. It is a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism."
So, as you can see, the effects of breath-holding are quite numerous. All it takes is a bit of awareness, especially if you are feeling stressed, to check in with your breathing.
When you are stressed out, your breathing often becomes shallow "chest and mouth" breathing, which can lead to further feelings of anxiety as you are essentially hyperventilaing. This further activates the Sympathetic Nervous System (sNS), increasing stress. Consciously choose to breathe deeply through your nose into your belly to de-activate the sNS.
Breathe in through your nose and deep into your belly, expanding it as far as it will go, and then exhaling by contracting your abdominal muscles. This activates receptors deep within your lungs that activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PsNS) which brings your system back to a state of relaxation.
Start with your eyes closed so you can turn your attention inward. With each nasal-abdominal breath in, imagine that the air you are breathing in brings with it increased inspiration, energy, love, calmness, gratitide, courage... whatever you want more of. As you exhale, release with your breath any stress, negativity, "old energy", fear, or anything else you wish to release. Do this for at least a minute, or until you feel calm, at peace and ready to continue on with your day.
Quick coherence technique. This technique may be used in everyday stress, anger, anxiety and emotional overload or in times of acute crisis, where it's especially helpful.
The HeartMath Institute has done reasearch to show that Heart-Focused Breathing can help people to reduce stress quickly. It helps to change stress-producing attitudes and reset your stress set point.
By doing this technique, you are actually changing your heart rhythm pattern and calming your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). By focusing on your heart, you're taking energy away from the undesirable emotions.
By generating a positive attitude or feeling, this starts to shift the signal the heart sends the brain, so the brain response is different. This in turn changes your physiology to move into heart-brain coherence and alignment.