Slowing down our breathing intercepts the ‘stress response’. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the ‘rest & digest’ response. This in turn reduces the heart rate and blood pressure while also reducing the release of stress hormones like adrenalin.
The thing is, we don’t tend to think about slowing down our breathing while we’re becoming stressed because we get caught up in what’s happening and generally stop thinking rationally altogether!
Sitting practices of Breath Awareness are a great way to get in touch with your breath and are very useful for promoting relaxation both physically and mentally.
Getting in the habit of practicing breath awareness informally though is also very beneficial. By fostering a greater awareness of your breath on a regular basis, you are much more likely to then access it as a tool to manage stress when that stressful moment arises.
A great time to practice informal breath awareness is when you find yourself waiting for something. These opportunities usually present themselves as delays, like being held up by traffic lights, or a slow queue at the Post Office, maybe waiting for the kids to come out from school, or the toast to pop!
We can choose whether to allow the delay to frustrate us or we can choose to use the time to practice breath awareness. Either way the time will pass, it’s how we feel afterwards that will be different.
So, next time the washing machine door is locked and won’t release for a whole minute, accept the gift you are receiving and use the time to check in with yourself and breathe while you wait!
By Miffy Hoad