How Breath Control Exercises Can Reduce Stress And Change Your Life?Dec 13, 2022
In this blog post, you'll learn how breath control can help you maximise opportunities in your life, create new ones and live your life to its fullest.
To succeed in today's competitive environment, you must achieve and sustain states of calm and alert focus. You produce your most creative, innovative and influential work when you are in this state.
Being able to call upon this state and access it at will is a superpower that will set you apart from your competitors and enable you to live your life to its fullest.
Imagine if you could summon these states of intense calm focus at will before giving a presentation in the boardroom.
I'm here to tell you that the key to achieving these states at will has been with you since you were born and will be with you until your last moment on this planet.
You already do it about 25000 times per day, but you rarely give it much thought unless something impedes your ability to do it.
I'm talking about the most essential bodily function that provides the cells of your body vital oxygen's presence for energy production, breathing.
To understand why breath control exercises are a powerful tool to reduce stress and improve the quality of your life, you must first understand the basics of the human stress response.
Stress is not the problem
One thing that has changed the most from the world that our stone-age-adapted bodies have evolved to live in is the type and magnitude of stress we experience daily.
For millions of years of hominid and human evolution, our ancestors lived in hunter-gatherer bands no larger than a hundred people strong.
Nowadays, you'll see more people on your commute to work than your ancestors saw during their lifetime. That's an interesting thought.
Your ancestors were more likely to be attacked by predators and other humans than you if you live in a modern urban environment.
Still, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't have work deadlines, recessions, inflation, mortgages, bills, traffic and pollution, to name a few everyday stressors responsible for a lot of anxiety and blood pressure-lowering medication prescriptions.
Because of the intermittent nature of stress our ancestors experienced, the human stress response evolved to be turned on for short, intense and possibly life-threatening fight or flight situations to acquire dinner or to avoid becoming someone else's dinner.
When the fight or flight state is activated, immediate survival becomes the priority, and bodily processes related to long-term health and longevity are put on the back burner.
Your body goes: "Why would you mow the lawn when you have a category five cyclone bearing your house down?"
You stop digesting food, producing sex hormones and repairing damaged tissues around the body, and instead, blood diverts from the stomach to the limbs to fuel kicking or running. You breathe faster, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to circulate the oxygenated blood around the body faster. You start producing stress hormones which give you instant energy and start mobilising stored energy in case the stressful situation continues.
The pre-frontal cortex, the most modernly developed part of the brain responsible for higher thinking, problem-solving and controlling your emotions, is turned off, and the limbic structures of the brain, which are responsible for strong emotions like fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, take over.
This is why you act like an angry teenager when stressed out. The executive of your brain has left the building, and the reigns have been left to primal instinct.
We can thank the stress response for the fact that we are here today. It saved the skins of our ancestors time and time again and helped them feed themselves so they could reproduce, propagate, collaborate and ultimately build towns, cities and civilisations.
Therefore, stress response itself is not the problem. It only becomes a problem if it's turned on too often, or worse, it's left on without conscious control.
Chronic stress has been proven to be at the root of many chronic non-communicable illnesses like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Chronic stress will make you anxious, fearful, frustrated, angry and confused.
Wrestling a chronic health condition, falling ill easily and being constantly anxious is hardly the recipe for living your best life, let alone performing at your best daily and maximising your business, career and relationship success.
I want you to live your life with vigour and be able to stay calm and focused under pressure to make decisions that allow you to live your life to its fullest.
How does breath control relate to this?
Your breath is the key
It turns out that the breath is the window to the state of your autonomic nervous system.
As you already learned, one thing that happens as you enter a state of fight or flight is that your breathing rate increases to provide the body with more vital oxygen for fighting or fleeing.
On the other hand, when your body is in a state of rest and digestion where your longevity, reproduction and long-term health are prioritised, your breathing is slow and calm. Your blood pressure is low, and your heart rate is slow. You digest food, produce sex hormones, and all long-term repair processes are being taken care of. The executive of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, is in control, and you can think critically, solve problems and control your emotions.
So, faster breathing indicates increased fight or flight activity of the autonomic nervous system, and slower breathing shows increased rest and digest state activity.
That's a valuable insight, but the million-dollar takeaway is to take this one step further and realise that since you have conscious control over your breathing, you have, by definition, conscious control over your stress levels.
Try it. It only works if it works.
Let's make you stressed out first.
Open your mouth and start hyperventilating for 30 seconds. Take shallow and quick breaths in and out.
How do you feel?
Next, let's calm you down.
Slow down your inhalations to five seconds on the way in, and slow down your exhalations to five seconds on the way out.
Seriously, please do it now. Take three breaths like that. That's a total of 30 seconds.
How do you feel?
Much better? Good. Do you want to feel amazing? Keep going for another 4 minutes, and send me a message on @coachpyry to let me know how you feel now.
Next time you have to give a presentation and you feel a little on edge, go to the restroom, set a timer and close your eyes. Turn off the chatter of your mind and activate the state of calm focus by slowing down your breathing to the five-second inhalation and five-second exhalation tempo for 5 minutes.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that breath control exercises will pay your bills or solve other problems without further action. They won't. What they will do is they'll create stillness and help you achieve a calm, focused state of mind where you can use your best judgement to decide on the best course of action to move forward and deal with whatever was causing you anxiety.
What about your breathing habits?
You've just learned that the breath is the window to the autonomic nervous system and the gateway to influencing its state.
By controlling your breath, you can directly influence how you think, feel, and behave and how every single organ and cell of your body functions.
Now you know why breath control exercises are powerful for achieving calm focus.
What about the other more than twenty thousand breaths you take each day without much conscious control?
It turns out that your relationship with carbon dioxide determines your unconscious breathing patterns.
CO2 has received a lot of bad press due to climate change. However, when it comes to breathing, CO2 is not just a waste gas.
Your carbon dioxide tolerance is a component of your cardiorespiratory fitness which can be targeted and trained with specific breath control exercises and fitness protocols.
High tolerance to carbon dioxide leads to slower unconscious breathing patterns and higher stress tolerance.
In contrast, low tolerance to carbon dioxide is responsible for faster and shallower unconscious breathing and low stress tolerance. You'll get out of breath quickly when you exercise, and your sleep is easily disturbed if your CO2 tolerance is low.
This is why CO2 tolerance increasing breath control exercises are an integral part of the Breathe Sleep Perform program.
The Breathe Sleep Perform is a 6-Week experience that unlocks the type of energy and vitality that your friends and family will ask if "you are on something".
The done-for-you blueprint will give you more energy, boost physical and cognitive performance and improve stress tolerance by optimising how you do some of the most overlooked but critical aspects of being a human - breathing and sleeping.
All you have to do is show up.
Don't hesitate to contact me at @coachpyry if you have any questions.
This is Coach Pyry,
Let's do this!
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