Combating Stress

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I like to offer up alternatives to medication for combating stress, anxiety and panic attacks.  If you understand what is happening in your body, you can take that knowledge and apply it in a way that will be helpful and productive.

SO, let’s break down in very basic terms, what happens in your body when your stress/anxiety response is turned on (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).

How does it work?

Once a threat is perceived, whether it is real or imaginary, it triggers your fight/flight response and that causes a variety of reactions, but the one I want to focus on at the moment is your breathing.  When this stress response is on in your body, you are not taking deep, calm breaths.  Typically, your breathing speeds up and your breath is very shallow.  This fast paced breathing sends a continual message to our brain that we are in danger and need to be alarmed.  In order to take back control, we have to figure out a way to turn off that response.

Think of it like sneaking in the back door.  By slowing down our breathing in a moment of high stress or panic, we can essentially “switch off” that fight/flight response. When we slow down our breathing, it sends a message to our brain giving the “all clear,” and turns off the fight/flight response.  It’s not possible to be both panicked and breathing calmly, so our brain turns off the response because our slow breathing is telling it that there is no need to be alarmed…that there is no danger.

Next time you find yourself getting stressed or anxious about something, try the following breathing technique and see if it helps.  You should notice a response within 30 seconds in your body.

Possible Alterations: Some people prefer to skip the steps of holding their breath in between their inhale and exhale.  Instead, simply inhale and exhale to a count of four, or if possible, try to slowly deepen your breath by inhaling and exhaling to a count of five or six.