“Palms Are Sweaty, Knees Weak, Arms Are Heavy”
It’s not just an Eminem song, it was me before every high school wrestling match.
As I stepped onto the mat my limbs turned to lead. My brain froze. And I started to feel sick, filling with dread and anxiety. A million other emotions would start spinning inside me like a washing machine…
But I knew I wasn’t alone. I could see the other guy was feeling this same way.
I loved and hated everything about those moments.
While my wrestling days are far behind me, I have had years full opportunities to put myself into emotional situations like those wrestling days. At the gym, at work, challenging myself to love my family more.
I rarely become frozen with fear and anticipation anymore. But when I do, I start breathing.
Allow me to introduce you to ABDOMINAL BREATHING.
Abdominal breathing is a form of deep breathing and meditation.
Rather than breathing in a way that makes your shoulders rise, the purpose of abdominal breathing is to pull the air down into the lungs by using the diaphragm.
This action also helps increase circulation to the heart and increases the flow of your lymphatic system.
All of these things improve your health. Plus, the main purpose of the abdominal breathing technique is to stimulate the relaxation response. This results in less tension and an overall sense of well-being.
I suggest you start using this technique at least twice a day or anytime you find your mind dwelling on negative or stressful thoughts. (In the beginning, I was doing this many times a day)
It can also be useful when experiencing pain.
Bonus** The whole process only takes about 5-10 minutes!
How to Implement Abdominal Breathing
In order to train yourself to do abdominal breathing, follow these steps:
1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, you should feel the hand on your abdomen rising higher than the one on your chest.
2. Try to take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it for a count of seven.
3. Slowly let the breath out through your mouth on the count of eight.
4. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to evacuate the majority of the air from your lungs.
5. Take another deep breath in through your nose and repeat the cycle above for a total of
five deep breaths.
6. Continue to deep breathe at a pattern of three seconds in and seven seconds out for the remainder of your 5-10 minutes.
(It is only necessary to use your hands on your chest and abdomen while you are training your
Once you feel comfortable, you can place your hands in any relaxed position.
I also encourage you to explore guided meditation as an additional advanced technique
This meditation can include thinking through scriptures. Reciting positive thoughts. Inclining your mind toward the goals of peace or clarity. Or anything else that relaxes your mind and encourages you toward rest.
The more you practice these things, the more natural they will become.
One final note: the best times to ensure that your body is in a relaxed state is prior to each meal and prior to going to bed. This will ensure good digestion and restorative sleep.
Stress Management is important for those that are seeking to prevent health deterioration.
The research is very clear that negative stress (physical, chemical, or emotional) plays a major role in every disease process.
The main hormone our body uses when dealing with stress is cortisol.
In fact, it has been named the STRESS HORMONE.
Cortisol is very important in many aspects of our health including:
• Decreasing Inflammation
• Balancing Blood Sugar
• Keeping A Strong Immune System
• Blood Pressure Regulation
Normally, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest at night following a sleep-wake cycle.
In high-stress moments, cortisol is released into the bloodstream to help us manage stress-related changes in the body.
This additional cortisol can give us a quick burst of energy, heightened memory function, lower sensitivity to pain, and even a brief increase in immunity.
These are all required when dealing with short-term stress.
It is how our body maintains equilibrium.
Problems arise though when short-term stress turns into long-term stress.
Normally, when stress is gone, our body activates its relaxation response.
This can be heard with the sigh of relief we have when the stressful event ends. At this time, the body’s functions return to normal.
Unfortunately, with the high-stress culture we live in today, our body’s stress response doesn’t have adequate time to return to normal. which results in what is called chronic stress.
Chronic stress causes our body to maintain a higher, prolonged level of cortisol. Th is adds additional stress to the adrenal glands that produce cortisol.
In addition to emotional stress… poor diet, deficiencies in nutrition, lack of rest, and physical stresses also elevate our cortisol levels.
This chronically elevated cortisol causes immune suppression and inflammation which increases your risk of illness and injury.
In addition, it can screw up your blood sugar, cause us to break down muscle tissue, and increase abdominal fat.
This abdominal fat is associated with a large number of health problems and also proves the significant hormonal imbalances associated with elevated cortisol levels.
Other negative effects of chronic stress include:
• Increase fatigue and inflammation
• Poor sleep quality
• Reduced sex drive
• Mood swings
• Decrease bone density
• Impaired cognitive function
• Suppressed thyroid function
• Imbalanced blood sugar
• High blood pressure
• Lowered immunity and slow healing
DON’T LET STRESS ROB YOU OF YOUR HEALTH!
Studies also show increased cortisol tends to lead to overeating with cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. Plus makes us more sensitive to stress and the downward spiral begins.
So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed JUST START BREATHING!
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