Remember to Breathe

What? We’re breathing all the time right? But mostly, we’re not breathing correctly.

When we become stressed we start to breathe shallowly into our upper chest. It’s a physiological and subconscious response.

We do this so we have more oxygen in our system to give us more energy to run away from the sabre toothed tiger in front of us. Fortunately, they don’t exist anymore, however sometimes we feel they do but disguised as our boss, other drivers on the road or our partner if we’re arguing.

The autonomic nervous system regulates our levels of stress. It’s made up of two nervous systems:

  • sympathetic is the fight or flight response and
  • parasympathetic is the rest and digest response.

Physically, we’re always in one state or the other. Panicking or relaxed. That certainly made me think!

The vagus nerve originates in the brain and connects through to the organs that are involved in resting and digesting. This is the one we want to activate because it helps us move from; highly stressed states, to more calm and relaxed ones.


How do we Activate this ‘De-Stress’ Nerve?

Simple! By breathing deeply:

  • In through the nose and blow out through pursed lips
  • Into the lower belly using the diaphragm to breathe.

If you hold your gut in when breathing, you’re not using the diaphragm, so let it all hang out!

When we breathe all the way into the bottom of the lungs, the vagus nerve is activated which activates the rest & digest system. This switches us from a panicked state to being more calm and relaxed.

I find having reminders to breathe deeply, in places that you might experience stress (work, in the car) might be all you need to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day.

Use brightly coloured Post-it notes and write ‘Remember to Breathe’ on them as reminders.