Often when we get really stressed out and we forget to breathe.
This is just the opposite of what our nervous system would need to reset. But when stressed, most people start to breathe shallow and only in the upper parts of the lungs instead of the whole chest, and belly.
This gives our body and mind the signal of urgency and not enough oxygen, and we get even more amped up, and it gets harder and harder to find the inner calm spot again.
A great and proven simple breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is the 2:1 breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is in command of your fight or flight response, and when they fire, your heart rate and your breathing speed up, and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat. If the threat is, “A tiger is chasing me and I need to run away,” this is helpful. If the threat is, “I am late to work” or, “I’m so upset with my mom,” this is not particularly helpful, and in fact it can be damaging – when cortisol is elevated for too long or too frequently it disturbs all the hormonal systems of the body.
The parasympathetic nervous system controls your rest, relax, and digest response. When the parasympathetic system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers as the blood vessels relax, and your body is put into a state of calm.
When we stop breathing fully and hold our breath as a stress response, the oxygen flow is cut off and we may even experience fear. When we start breathing deep and slow and fully, the mind a body can start to relax.
I love this formula: Fear/ Stress + Oxygen = Excitement.
This empowers you to choose how you want to experience the world. You can bring yourself back from a stressed state into a relaxed and even productive and peaceful state.
The simple 2:1 Breath will reset you.
Pick a count for your inhale and a count for your exhale that is a little longer. I like starting with 3 counts in, and 6 counts out, with a one count pause at the top of the inhale and a one count pause at the bottom of the exhale.
Step by step instructions:
- To begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable.
- Close your eyes and breathe through your nose.
- Then, inhale for a count of three… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for six… and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one.
- You can play with the time and length of this breath technique. It could be a 2:4 or even a 4:8 breath. See what in the given moment works for you. Keep your breathing even and smooth.
- The most important thing is that your exhale is longer than your inhale.
- Any time you feel overwhelmed or nervous or stressed, stop and take a couple of minutes to change the state of your being through the 2:1 breath.
And the best thing is that you are empowered to change your state of being in the world anytime you commit to it.
If you would like further support, schedule a free 30 minutes consultation with me.
Looking forward to helping you feel vibrant and rejuvenated.