Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body. It’s so basic that our bodies often do it without us even having to think about it. But experts say that breathing can also have extremely helpful effects, including the ability to stop stress before it sends you into a panicked state.
A simple breathing trick can stop stress in its tracks
Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and a professor at Stanford, shared insight into how effective breathing can stop stress in a podcast featuring ex-Navy Seal officer Jocko Willink. The trick, Huberman says, is to complete a “psychological sigh.”
This breathing technique is simple, and it plays off a very simple part of your body’s anatomy. Your chest expands when your muscles and diaphragm contract as you inhale. When that happens, your heart expands, too. Everything compresses when you exhale. You can stop stress by using your breathing to regulate the sequence of expanding/compressing. When blood pressure drops like this, it means that your brain is paying attention. Charlotte Grysolle, a writer over on Medium, breaks down some of the key points that Huberman and Willink discuss in a post. Your heart rate will increase if your inhales and exhales are shorter than your exhales. When you exhale longer, though, it does the opposite.
This trick can be used to reduce stress. Take two deep inhalations through your nose and then take a slow, long exhale through your mouth. The “phycological” sigh basically slows down your heart rate. This helps to reduce panic from stress. It can also help when situations are spiraling out of control.
If you want to reduce stress levels, it can be helpful to repeat the breathing exercise one to three more times. Other breathing techniques work in a similar way. These breathing techniques work by allowing you to inhale more air than you exhale. This causes your chest and heart to contract and slow down blood flow.
You can also use this format to slow down your heart when trying to get to sleep quickly. One popular TikTok sleep hack relies on similar short inhales and long exhales to calm down and fall asleep quickly.
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