Breathing is essential to life. It is an exercise we engage in an average of 20,000 times each day. As we inhale, our lungs fill with oxygen which then flows to our cells, bloodstream, muscles, and organs to offer the energy needed to sustain healthy function. When we exhale, we release carbon dioxide, a gas that can cause harm to cells, blood, muscles, and organs when it builds up in the body. Our bodies are designed to continually absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. The more effectively this process works, the more efficiently our body systems perform. Stop breathing, even briefly, and the need for oxygen and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the body will make you literally gasp for a lungful of fresh air. And when you consciously inhale after this, you will practice deep breathing. The body knows what is vital for optimal health!
If you suffer from an Anxiety Disorder, deep breathing can be one of the greatest things you can do to help when you are experiencing symptoms. Here is a picture of what happens when you feel anxious. The fight or flight mechanism in the brain opens the valve that releases excess adrenaline. Once this happens, the muscles tense, breathing becomes shallow, and the brain functions in overdrive. By choosing to breathe deeply, through your diaphragm, you close that valve temporarily. Once the valve closes, the adrenaline rush subsides, muscles begin to relax, the body calms down, and normal brain function resumes.
Are you breathing from your chest or your diaphragm?
- Place one hand on each and breathe normally.
- Which hand rises and falls the most?
If the hand on your chest moves the most, breathing is shallow. This interferes with proper oxygen intake and carbon dioxide expulsion. It can also cause or exasperate muscle tension.