Getting a Handle on Stress with the Breath
As shown in the illustration above, there are ample physical and physiological reasons for one to learn how to overcome stress or be able to weather stressful events successfully. Wear and tear on the body is significant and can be cumulative with constant pressures of stress. The symptoms caused by stress can also lead to enhanced contraction of communicable diseases due to a weakened immune system.
A proven method of addressing stress is to use what is called breath work. Breath work is doing exercises with the diaphragm muscle in order to make respiration occur more fully, smoothly and efficiently. There are ancient traditions of breath exercises that have come from India and China, known as yoga and qigong, respectively.
A Breathing Exercise for Stress Reduction
Stress makes you stop breathing or causes you to breathe rapidly and shallowly. This happens automatically, or unconsciously. But, with practice, you can consciously intervene to observe and calm yourself. So, the goal of breathing exercises is to give you a way to place your attention on your breathing during stressful events, or even prepare yourself before an event comes up. There are several ways to do that, and you can do it in various settings - be it the workplace or at home. You just need to take a few minutes as a time out to get in touch with yourself and do this simple exercise.
The is the simplest method of reducing stress. Place your attention on the breath as it goes in and out of the nose. This is all you do. When the mind makes your attention wander from this one task, bring it back to the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nose. You don't think about or change your breathing. Simply watch it. You have nothing else to do. Let go of thoughts and keep it on the breath.
If needed, closing your eyes may help you keep your mind on the task.
Another aid to the process is to use an inner smile. Smile and be kind to yourself. Life is too short to treat yourself badly or harbor negative thoughts when learning how to do this important work. That attitude will make the task easier and it puts you in the best mindset to return your attention when distracting (stressful) thoughts arise during breath watching. Stress implies a negative mindset and your task is to condition yourself to maintain a positive, relaxed mindset. Chuckle at your distractions and bring yourself back to watching the breath.
If you can do this practice for 5 minutes, you will see that you have attained greater self-composure and calmness. If you have the time, practice from 15 to 20 minutes.