Relearning how to breathe

Have you ever felt anxious or stressed out? Chances are the answer is Yes especially in the last year or so. I’ve been there. I think we all have.

That’s why I was excited to attend a talk by Sarah Laurie the founder of Take a Breath who made it her mission to improve people’s mental health. She’s been working with scientists for the past 4 years to better understand how our body responds to anxiety and how to manage it.

The tricky thing with anxiety and stress is that they creep up on us and we often don’t even notice the warning signs. When we’re not sleeping well, feeling a bit under the weather or irritable it’s usually just shrugged off. We tend to think it’s just a phase and everyone probably experiences it at some point. Well, turns out it’s not.

A simple test to find out if you’re anxious is to put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Now, breathe like you normally would. You should feel your belly rise with each breath.

If you feel it in your chest instead that’s fine. That’s the case for a lot of people. The good news is that it’s easy to fix and you should see results within only 7 days of retraining your body how to breathe.

According to Laurie our body has 2 states–performant and alert. As the name implies in the performant state we’re able to function to the best of our physical and cognitive abilities. The breath is relaxed and inflates our lungs which should make the belly rise.

In the alert mode, our body tenses up and our breath seems to be trapped in the chest area instead of the belly. This is its natural response to stressful situations. The problem is that these days many people are in the alert state most of the time.

As I mentioned earlier the best (and easiest) thing you could do to quickly improve your wellbeing is to retrain your body how to breathe properly.

By using reminders such as post-it notes or phone alerts to prompt you to breathe from your belly for about 10 seconds throughout the day you can break the habit of chest-breathing and start living a healthier life.