Stress is something that affects every man in his life at one time or another. The problem is that excess stress can cause a myriad of health issues, from mental health problems like anxiety and depression to physical problems like digestive issues, weight gain, and back pain. Stress is caused by an overload of cortisol, otherwise, known as the stress hormone. When this is not released from the body, the build-up can lead to your feeling depressed and off kilter.
However, in line with techniques that have been used by ancient civilizations for years, there are breathing exercises that can help with this stress. Yoga and meditation have been particularly prominent in ancient Asian cultures and have been shown to work wonders on reducing anxiety and worry while physically reducing cortisol levels in the body.
This exercise is a quick release of stress. It helps you to quickly lower cortisol, sending oxygen to the brain, helping cognitive functioning. It sometimes makes you feel a little light-headed while making the world seem a little bright and sparkly for a moment. Close your eyes and place your thumb over your right nostril, closing the hole. Breathe in deeply for 6 seconds out the left nostril. Now breathe out for 8 seconds from the left nostril. Place your thumb on the left nostril and breathe in for 6 seconds from the right nostril. Now breathe out for 8 seconds from the right nostril. Repeat this 10 times, open your eyes and carry on with that difficult stress-filled task you couldn’t bring yourself to do. All of a sudden, it will feel easier.
The technique requires that you make a sound so find a quiet place to do this. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Inhale deeply through your nose for 6 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds. Now slowly and with control, exhale through your nose, keeping your lips tightly shut. While exhaling, make a humming sound as though you are saying the letter ‘M’, buzzing similarly to a bee. Try to exhale slowly for 8 seconds. This humming sound is soothing to the mind, as the vibration helps you to relax. Breathing out for longer than breathing in helps to keep a little carbon dioxide in your body, which quiets the fight or flight response.
When we experience anxiety or stress, we tend to breathe in a more shallow manner. The lack of oxygen reaching the brain disables cognitive function, meaning that you will find it even harder to solve what you are worried about. Take a moment to sit in a quiet place. Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your heart. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply through the nose. While doing this, concentrate on the breath lifting your chest and expanding your belly. Feel it with your hands. Now exhale slowly out the mouth for a slightly longer time than you inhaled. Pay attention to the breath leaving the belly, then the chest lowering and the air releasing from your mouth. Repeat this up to ten times. When you open your eyes, everything will feel brighter and your shoulders will feel lighter. Deep breaths like this, and quietening the mind from stimuli helps the cortisol levels to lower in the body.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with stress on a daily basis, you may want to complement your breathing exercises with a supplement such as ‘Relax (Holy Basil)’. Holy Basil works well to reduce anxiety, just as taking the time for relaxed breathing does!