Our daily habits are linked to varying degrees of stress that ultimately have an impact on our health, and, by extension, on the resilience of our immune system. Regular physical activity, meditation, relaxation, and a proper control of your breathing are all helpful in successfully managing stress levels.
We all take breathing for granted – something our body does subconsciously, adapting its patterns to our environment and to our ongoing activities.
Let’s take a step back. As babies, we naturally breathe abdominally – that is, breathing in such a way that our belly moves in and out. This deep breathing is very relaxing. However, the way we breathe tends to change as we get older. We switch to shallow breathing, and that’s because the short, fast breaths we usually associate with feeling scared are also brought on by stress. The result? We end up only ever breathing into the top third of our lungs and we aren’t getting the oxygen we need to keep our brains and bodies operating optimally.
Once these bad habits are ingrained, you have to consciously reverse them, teaching your body how to breathe again. How can you do that? It’s easy, actually. While you’re sitting at your desk, every hour or two, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Take 10 slow, deep breaths right into your belly, so that it expands when you breathe in; if in doubt, place your hand on your belly to feel it move. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Over time, your body will re-learn how to breathe!
Breathing is a central part of meditation practice as well, and this too, has powerful effects in combating stress. With a variety of solutions available, from professionally led sessions to dedicated apps, meditation is an ideal option for those with hectic schedules, in great need of clarity and calm.
For those days when you prefer a more engaging activity, regular and moderate physical exercise is a perfect option; whether it’s a yoga session, a spinning class or weight training, the physical effort forces you to rebalance and refocus your energy.
Your stress levels can also be managed by allowing yourself moments of relaxation. It is no longer the case that a spa treatment, a sauna session or a massage are considered unattainably luxurious. Today, such activities can easily be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, and they provide you with both mental and physical benefits.