Stress changes the way your body and mind work. Have you ever noticed shortness of breath, migraines, stomach pains, or difficulty focusing? Pretty much everybody experiences these things from time to time. Often, they arise due to a stress response.
Here’s an important thing to remember: your natural stress response isn’t all bad!
It’s part of your body’s way of dealing with challenges, whether internal or external. Have you ever heard, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Your stress response can help you overcome difficult situations and, in the process, to learn and grow.
Staying in a prolonged stress-state, however, can be extremely bad for your health. These days, there’s rarely a moment when something or someone isn’t causing you stress. As a result, the same fight-or-flight response that helped human beings thrive over the past 100,000 years can produce chronic health problems like inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural phenomenon in your body. It’s related to your immune system. Your body responds with inflammation to things like infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself.
When inflammation occurs in response to a health threat, it’s a good thing. Your immune system releases antibodies and proteins and increases blood flow to the affected area. Excess inflammation, however, can contribute to a variety of health problems ranging from low-grade fatigue to diagnosable autoimmune disorders. Inflammation can be caused by emotional stressors, improper diet, and even exposure to air pollution and industrial chemicals.
When stress-induced inflammation becomes chronic it can negatively impact the functions of your nervous system and your immune system. Reduce that inflammation and your body will be better able to heal and recharge! Fortunately, there are many tools you can use to reduce inflammation in your body, starting with your breathing!
Breathing goes hand in hand with many of the physical movements that make up yoga, tai chi, and other holistic exercise practices. According to the book, “Stress Less Accomplish More” by Emily Fletcher, (founder of Ziva Meditation) after just a couple minutes of breathing and meditation your body will have increased production of happiness hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones are alkaline by nature, helping to neutralize some of the stress-related acid in your body. Breathing exercises can help promote healing on a cellular level.
Along with mindful breathing, another way to help your body deal with inflammation involves the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve in the gut can help create a state of inner-calm and suppress your inflammation response. You may recognize this as a regular part of Body & Brain practices like Dahn-jon (Abdominal) Tapping, Intestine Exercise, and Dahn-jon (Abdominal Energy) Breathing.
Deep breathing, especially with a slow exhalation, may help stimulate the vagus nerve and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Try this Dahn-jon (Abdominal) Breathing technique to help neutralize the effects of stress in your body and mind.
1. Make yourself comfortable and sit with your spine straight, placing your palms on your lower abdomen. Relax your chest and shoulders.
2. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth comfortably for 1 minute, without making any extra effort to breathe deeply. Just notice each breath.
3. After 1 minute, begin to inhale a little more deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand slightly, like a balloon. You should feel a gentle pressure in the lower abdomen.
4. Completely relax your chest as you exhale through your mouth. Allow your abdomen to also relax as you exhale. As you progress, you’ll be able to maintain a sense of pressure in the lower abdomen even as you relax.
5. Imagine fresh energy entering your body with each inhale. You may feel warmth as well as pressure in your lower abdomen. This is a good thing.
6. Continue Dahn-Jon breathing for 1 to 3 minutes. Remember, you don’t have to breathe forcefully to get the benefits. Easy and focused breathing will be enough.
Through breathing and mindfulness you may notice that you’re able to calm the stress-response that leads to inflammation. Practice makes perfect, so try to work Dahn-Jon Abdominal Breathing into your daily routine. Remember, you are the owner of your body and mind. Learn how to manage them well, and you’ll get a lifetime of benefits!