“It may seem a little hokey, but we know that it does work.”
How can you tell if someone is at the breaking point? Watch their breathing. Short, shallow and rapid breathing is a sure sign that someone’s fight-or-flight mechanism is fully engaged. Once in that state, a person is incapable of rational thought, and liable to do or say things they’ll later regret.
There’s a trick to defusing such a situation; it’s not difficult and it doesn’t cost a cent, according to Janet Smith, program manager of the Farm and Rural Stress Line.
“It sounds pretty obvious. We all breathe, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” she said. “But one of the things we know about stress is that when we’re stressed out our breathing becomes very shallow and confined to the upper chest.”
It’s not New Age nonsense. Breathing techniques have been around for thousands of years, and practised by everyone from Buddhist monks to Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Even cowboys climbing onto fearsome bulls and broncs use it.
Simply put, the feeling of calm brought on by deep-breathing exercises is a good fallback position, and the secret to keeping your wits intact when everyone else is panicking and all hell is breaking loose.
First, sit comfortably in a chair with eyes open or closed. Teach yourself to breathe from your belly, not your chest. Hold one hand over your belly and one over your upper chest, then concentrate on making your belly go in and out for deeper, higher-quality breathing. Make the hand on your belly rise, while keeping the hand over your chest still. Air goes in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
“Deep breathing is the thing that brings more oxygen into our bodies and it has actually been proven scientifically to reduce stress, blood pressure and other things. The deeper the breath, the more oxygen you bring in and the less tense and anxious you will feel,” said Smith.
“It’s something that we can pay attention to. It doesn’t cost anything and you can do it at any time of the day. No one has to know that you’re practising stress management – you’re just doing some deep breathing. It may seem a little hokey, but we know that it does work.” [email protected]