TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Right now. Go on, I'll
wait here. How does that feel?
You can do this anywhere, anytime, and
tends to help. One of the effects of stress is its constricts
your breathing, making it faster, shallower, and higher in the
chest. This stressed breathing-style makes you feel psychologically
more stressed, and so it can begin a negative feedback loop that
might lead to health problems. In a study of a 153 heart attack
patients, researchers found that almost all of them were primarily
shallow breathers or "chest breathers."
The authors of New Directions in Progressive Relaxation Training:
A Guidebook for Helping Professionals say that shallow, rapid
breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system the
part of your nervous system responsible for stress reactions.
"People can predispose themselves to anxious and tense inner
experience," write the authors, "by breathing in this
There is some evidence that people who
suffer from panic attacks keep their carbon dioxide too low by
shallow breathing, which keeps them in a state of semi-hyperventilation.
Apparently panic-attack sufferers notice the symptoms of hyperventilation
such as feeling dizzy or a pounding heart or feelings of suffocation,
they think something terrible is happening, and it scares them,
which of course makes their heart pound even more, making them
breathe faster, etc. Taking a deep breath can often stop this
cycle. And a deep breath can make anyone feel more relaxed.
Although we breathe automatically, without
any conscious effort on our part, we can also voluntarily control
the way we breathe, and when we do, we gain more voluntary control
of our emotional experience.
The method is to take a deep breath, somewhat
slowly, and let it out slowly. If you've got the time and inclination,
do it a few times. This is one of the simplest things you can
do to reduce your stress and feel better quickly.