My 3 Simple Techniques To Reduce Stress
My Super Simple and Quick Stress Reducer
This time of year although amazing is also a very stressful time of year for many of us. With the holiday season behind us and well into January, it is often a stressful time for many.
The very best and easiest way I know to reduce stress very quickly is a very short breathing exercise. It has been proven that you can reduce your emotional stress, reduce your heart rate, reduce your brain activity with just 10 deep breaths. Today I am going to share my breakthrough story that changed my mindset around deep breathing and share 3 simple techniques that I use on a daily basis. I often do these during the day and practice them 90% of the time prior to falling a sleep. In literally 2 minutes you will find your entire body and mind relax which will put you in a much more relaxed state of mind or assist you when falling asleep.
Why Breathing instead of Meditation?
I know that I should be meditating on a daily basis. To be honest, I have “dabbled” in meditation however I have failed to practice it on a consistent basis. I find that I can experience many of the benefits of meditation by doing my breathing techniques on a daily basis. I am not going as far as to say that breathing is a replacement for meditation as I believe meditating has many amazing health benefits and do believe I will practice it daily in the future. However at this point in my life I find that my simple “breathing “ practice works for me and really reduces my stress on a daily basis.
My “Ah Ha moment”
A number of years ago I went for my Executive Medical whereby they do a battery of different tests in order to provide feedback on any issues with my health. As I was meeting with the doctor as part of my medical, he asked me what my stress level was on a scale of 1-10? Of course I said that I wasn’t under a lot of stress and gave myself a score of 4 out of 10. As we were talking he slipped what I thought was an oxygen monitor on my finger which from prior tests I predicted he would let me know my oxygen saturation would be around 99%. As we were talking he turned his computer screen around and there was a graph that was 100% the colour red. He outlined that the red on the X/Y graph was a measure of the activity in my brain that was occurring as we spoke. It was clear that my stress levels were much higher than I had suggested to him.
He then asked me if I had every practiced any breathing exercises in the past and I let him know that I really had not. He asked me if I was ok if he took me through a short 5 minute breathing exercise which I of course agreed to. He asked me to close my eyes and he took me through 5 minutes of simple deep breathing exercises.
After 5 minutes he asked me to open my eyes. After the 5 minutes of breathing, I felt totally relaxed and even a little groggy like I had just woke up. He then asked me to look at his computer screen and literally after 1 minute of deep breathing, the screen was completely green which meant very low brain activity and stress. This convinced me of the importance of deep breathing and how quickly we can reduce our stress and brain activity with a few simple breaths.
A Simple Way To Reduce our Sympathetic(Stress) Nervous System
One of the things I measure on a daily basis is my HRV(Heart Rate Variability). HRV is a measure of the Sympathetic Nervous System(Stress) and the Parasympathetic Nervous system. In simple terms, HRV is a measure of the “Strain” or Stress our system is under. This could be both physical as well as emotional or mental stress. I have learned though measuring this on a daily basis that I can quickly reduce my Stress response through a very few simple quick breathing exercises.
The Secret To Stress Reduction – Breathing
We know that too much stress is not a good thing and can lead to illness, disease and ultimately an early death. The good news is that stress response can be reduced immediately through the practice of simple, deep breathing. Just 10 simple deep breaths have been proven to reduce our Stress response(Sympathetic Nervous system).
My Simple Breathing Techniques
I have a few different simple techniques that I use based on what I am doing and what time of day it is. If I am in bed I may employ a different technique than I might during the day when working. Here are my favourite breathing techniques that can all be done in less than 5 minutes.
1.Box Breathing – 5/5/5
In this technique, you inhale, hold and exhale for the same time count. I typically slowly inhale for 5 seconds, hold my breath for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. I usually do this simple exercise 10 times however you can see what works for you.
2.Body Scan – Deep Breathing
This is a technique that I often use at night prior to falling asleep as I find it allows me to quickly drift off into a deep sleep. In simple terms I breath in while consciously thinking of a body part starting at my head and working down my entire body to my toes. I typically just deep breath in while targeting that body part and then exhale thinking of this same body part. For example, I will think of the muscles around my neck while I take a deep breath in and then have a long exhale while I will think of those muscles and the stress leaving my neck muscles. If you have not done this you will be amazed at how relaxed you will feel when we consciously move down our entire body. When I finish moving down my entire body, I typically inhale while targeting the entire body from head to toe and exhale while doing the same. You will be amazed at how relaxed and stress free you will feel after doing this technique.
This is a technique I learned from a Ben Greenfield Podcast and I find that I am using it daily and has a real impact on my HRV. Quite simply the technique is a 4 second slow inhale, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then slowly exhale for 8 seconds. I do this for a total of 10 times. When you first try this technique ensure you are lying down or in a chair as initially it could make you very light headed until you have practiced this technique a number of times. This is a very effective technique and only takes 200 seconds or just over 3 minutes of time. This is often one I also do in bed on some nights prior to falling a sleep.
I often am asked how often you need to practice this breathing? Since it takes only a couple of minutes a day, I would suggest you do one of these techniques once per day. I practice at least one of these on a daily basis and most often do it 2 times per day. When you feel some stress in your day, practice one of these and you instantly will feel less anxious, relaxed and more in tune with what you are doing. You can use these techniques at any time however if you don’t do them all day, try using one right before you fall asleep. This will help you feel super relaxed and you will drift off into a deep and restful sleep.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and stress free day,