Early on in human evolution, when we were generally struggling to stay alive, we faced lots of physical dangers. This created the basic stress responses in our brains that we still carry today, hundreds of thousands of years later. Years of running from giant animals and the breathing that accompanied that activity stuck with the human psyche as a pairing that equated ‘danger’ with quick, shallow breaths.
Today, when we’re anxious, we still take quick, shallow breaths from our upper chest – this type of breathing is a natural response to stress and sends signals through our body that danger is nearby, which stresses us out even more.
Even if there’s no real physical threat, we all still experience these breathing patterns because the stress response hasn’t evolved to differentiate between various stressors.
Which is why it’s important to pay attention to how you’re breathing the next time you’re stressed, angry, or worried. Look down, is your chest moving up and down with every breath or is your stomach?
With diaphragmatic breathing, you’ll breathe from the belly instead of the chest, which promotes deeper breathing and provides a sense of calm and relaxation encouraging the body to unwind. To practice, place your hand on your abdomen and push outward while inhaling. A few rounds of this and you’ll remind your body that you’re just fine, and not in any physical danger.
Today we have instant access to news all over the world. Along with that comes stress and anxiety which builds up and can cause anger outbursts or also known as an “amygdala hijack“. We only have a split second to either REACT or to RESPOND to a situation. Noticing your breath is key to keeping calm and to respond calmly to a situation instead of reacting with anger or rage.
I use the app REMBO and set a daily reminder to “Respond instead of React. Pause and take a deep breath”
“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.” – Unknown