Paddleboarding is one of several stress-busting activities that would be tricky to do while reading this on your phone or computer. Meditation? You can’t read when your eyes are closed. A pleasant stroll? You’ll miss all the scenery. A little hanky panky? Probably wouldn’t go over too well. Deep breathing, however, simply takes what you’re already doing to the next stress-busting level.
Stress can take a long-term toll on your health and wellbeing, so reducing it is a major win. By lowering stress, deep breathing can improve your quality and quantity of sleep, help keep your weight in check, reduce the risk of heart attack…the list of benefits goes on and on. Can deep breathing lower your blood pressure? It can! Is deep breathing good for anxiety? You bet it is! It’s truly amazing what deep breathing can do for you.
Signs and causes of stress
Tension in your shoulders and neck, or clenching your hands into fists, are two early warning signs. It can be difficult to determine its root causes, but with the help of a medical professional you can learn to identify things in your life that make stress flare up, as well as learn to become aware of how your body reacts when this happens. The next step is finding a way to deal with stress, and that’s where deep breathing comes in.
Here’s how it’s done
Step 1: Focus on your regular breaths.
Step 2: Place one hand on your stomach, just above your belly button. Place the other hand on your chest.
Step 3: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel your breath expand your belly just below your rib cage as you fill your lungs as deeply as possible.
Step 4: Hold your breath for a second.
Step 5: Breathe out through your nose slowly and let your stomach go back down.
Do this right now, and even if you feel fine you’ll feel better. Start with five deep breaths and add more as needed. Do this whenever stress takes hold, and those unpleasant feelings will start to fade away. If sharks are circling your paddle board, however, some very fast paddling should immediately follow any deep breathing.
Five more easy ways to silence stress
Read a good book: Picking up a novel might not be second-nature, but it will help you relax and take your mind off stressful thoughts. Added bonus? Well-read men are sexier.
Listen to music: Grab a pair of headphones for the walk home after work.
Spend half of a day without looking at your phone: Break a digital habit simply by “forgetting” your device at home or letting the battery run out.
Do something that makes you laugh: From stand-up comedy to date night at the movies, laughing lowers activity in the “stress” areas of the brain.
Exercise: Physical activity releases pent-up emotions and clears your head, while stretching can reduce muscle and joint pain and boost flexibility. No pain, less stress!
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.