Foster Proper Breathwork for Nervous System Regulation

If you find your body stuck in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode, impacting your health in unexplained ways, you’re not alone. Many chronic health issues root from nervous system dysregulation, hindering your body’s ability to shift between relaxation and response modes. Something we like to call “regulation.”

Rather than feeling ashamed, seize this opportunity to empower yourself. The key to supporting nervous system balance lies in simple yet profound daily breathwork — and we’re not talking about your usual breathing routine! Curious about incorporating proper breathwork to transform a dysregulated nervous system into one that thrives? Keep reading!

Deep breathing is a commonly recommended technique for emotional regulation and stress management. It involves taking slow, deep breaths to activate the body’s relaxation response, which can help calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety or stress. Here’s how deep breathing can be beneficial for emotional regulation.

  • Activating the Relaxation Response: Deep breathing stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” system. This counteracts the “fight or flight” response associated with stress, helping to bring the body back to a calmer state.
  • Increased Oxygen Flow: Deep breathing involves taking slow, deliberate breaths, allowing for increased oxygen intake. This can have a calming effect on the body and mind, promoting a sense of clarity and focus. Slowing our breathing from 14 to 16 respirations per minute to 10 to 12 has a dramatic effect on the body and minds ability to relax.
  • Mindfulness and Presence: Deep breathing is often combined with mindfulness on the breath, encouraging individuals to be present in the moment. Focusing on the breath can help shift attention away from stressful thoughts and bring awareness to the current experience held in the breath.
  • Reducing Muscle Tension: Stress and negative emotions can contribute to muscle tension. Deep breathing encourages relaxation of the muscles, particularly in the shoulders, neck, and chest, helping to alleviate physical symptoms of stress. Deep breathing also opens the thoracic cage.

Here’s a simple deep breathing exercise to try:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs with air. Count to four as you inhale.
  • Hold your breath for a brief pause, counting to four.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth, counting to six.
  • Repeat this process for several breath cycles, focusing on the sensation of your breath and letting go of tension with each exhale.

Consistent practice of deep breathing, along with mindfulness and techniques such as stillness, silence and solitude can contribute to improved emotional regulation time. It’s a skill that can be used in various situations, such as during moments of stress, anxiety, or when trying to manage overwhelming thoughts or emotions.

Additionally, incorporating deep breathing into a daily routine can help build resilience to stress over the long term. Deep breathing brings us back to center focus. Life at its most basic is one in breath and one out breath, nothing else matters if that simple process stops. Taking control over our breathing helps manifest control over the rest of our lives.

Practicing deep mindful breathing is a skill that will become automatic over a short period of time and, by being aware of our breathing, allows us the ability to intervene when stressful situations arise and, as an excellent exercise in maintaining good emotional regulation.

Ian Kennedy

The True Wellness Center

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