April is Stress Awareness Month – a topic we’ve covered before, but also one that’s important enough to feature again! That’s because stress is a constant in everyone’s life and we want to help our residents, families, friends and community members find a way to deal with their stress in healthy ways. So sit back, relax (another way to combat stress) and take a look at a couple of our favorite ways to de-stress.
The benefits of deep breathing include:
- Happier Mood – Slow, deep breathing activates areas in the brain associated with positive mood.
- Deeper Sleep – When people with insomnia practiced slow deep breathing for at least 20 minutes before bed, they slept better and woke up fewer times.
- Less Anxiety – Woman who did yoga twice a week had significantly less anxiety than a control group.
- Healthier Heart – slow breathing for 30 minutes daily has been shown to reduced blood pressure.
- Better Air Intake – Doing breathing exercises several times a day can increase oxygen intake by 37%.
How do you engage in conscious, mindful breathing?
Breathe in and out slowly ten times for a relaxing break. With each breath think ‘breathe’ and count to five with each inhalation and exhalation. This will help you relax as your thoughts will be focused on this one activity. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to center by thinking “breathe”.
MRI scans have shown that meditation can:
- Increase Gyrification, or cortical folding, which allows the brain to process information faster.
- Improve focus by causing an increase in cortical thickness in regions of the brain responsible for attention.
- Increase whole brain function by synchronizing the right and left hemispheres.
- Increase dopamine and serotonin levels by stimulating regions of the brain which are associated with happiness and positivity.
- Decrease stress and anxiety by down-regulating cortisol and adrenaline, creating a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased.
Now, let’s meditate.
Step 1: Sit up straight - This allows for optimal blood flow to your brain.
Step 2: Put your hands in the prayer hold and pause to think of your stressors today. Step 3: Breathe in through your nose, and as you do, raise your prayer hands up. As you raise your hands think of this as you raising up your worries or concerns to a higher power.
Step 4: Exhale through your mouth, opening your arms wide to the side as you exhale. Push your concerns out and up to the sky, effectively letting go and releasing the stress.
Step 5: Repeat as necessary.
We hope this helps you as you navigate your daily stressors!