Just Breathe, Stupid

| Bryan Landaas LCSW

Inhale while silently counting to 4.
Hold your breath while silently counting to 7
Exhale while silently counting to 8.

What if the simple act of breathing is the proverbial “chill pill” we’re all searching for? Well, there is actually some pretty good research that suggests that learning how to breathe more effectively, in a certain way, might actually be the most effective approach to managing stress and reducing anxiety.

Counting your breaths while engaging in a structured breathing exercise seems to be especially effective in regulating emotional responses. The act of monitoring and mentally tracking your breaths is a form of self-guided biofeedback. When you engage the monitoring regions of your brain you are in essence taking a step back from your experiences which is like stepping out of the rivers rapids and onto the calm of the river bank.

People who experience generalized anxiety disorder (i.e., “chronic worriers”) tend to demonstrate alterations in the autonomic nervous system arousal, in particular heart rate variability patterns. Engaging in breathing exercises activates the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”), deactivates the fight-or-flight response, which in turn allows one to disengage from worry-based thought patterns.

Here are a couple of useful resources about the benefits of breathing exercises:

Today's the day to make a change.