Breathe in calmness, breathe out stress  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
The COVID-19 pandemic that spread through the world after originating in Wuhan (China) has changed the world forever. Work-From-Home, social distancing, teleworking and imposed lockdown restrictions have led to stress and isolation for many.
The rise in infections is taking a new toll on our mental health. More and more people report that they are negatively affected by work-related stress. We have to learn to give importance to our mental wellbeing during such trying times. Do not judge yourself too harshly. Find ways to beat the stress and relax. Called Pranayam or Pranayama in Sanskrit, the breathing exercises in Yoga are meant to help the person gain power over his body and emotions.
Here is a guide on how to cope with stress during these testing times.
- Follow a daily routine with clear boundaries between your working and private life. Divide your day into small activities and make sure you find time to pursue your hobbies or exercising to spending time with your children or pets.
- Get enough sleep and eat healthy meals at regular times. Take regular breaks, leave your desk for lunch, and have a fixed time to turn off.
- Exercise. Physical activity can do wonders for your mental health – especially if you are feeling stressed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week – or if you are very motivated, a combination of both. That’s as little as 15 minutes a day!
- Spend time in nature as it has a positive effect on mental health. A stroll in the park after work contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones. Have a plant on your work desk, it can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental health in the long term.
- Limit your social media intake as it can amplify anxiety and stress with a constant flow of worrisome (mis)information.
- Reach out to others as making time to reach out and connect with others is important for our mental health. Socialising decreases stress and anxiety while supporting calm and happy feelings.
- Set clear boundaries between the working and private life, get a work-life balance.
- Seek professional support if you are feeling overwhelmed or look for peer support. Online options of sessions with professional counsellors are available if you wish to avoid in-person sessions.
How controlled breathing helps:
- Use the breath to your advantage. When you are anxious, your breathing becomes rapid.
- By the same coin, if you learn to control your breath, you can control your negative emotions.
- The body is programmed to go into the fight or flight response when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
- This state aims to help us respond to a dangerous situation and ensure our survival.
- But if you allow your body to remain stressed for long periods, the fight or flight response can take a toll on your health.
- The fight or flight response mechanism suppresses our digestive and immune systems.
- You can use controlled breathing to reverse this process.
- Merely by slowing down your breathing and regulating oxygen intake, you can calm down your stress levels.
- Experts recommend 3-5 minutes of controlled breathing every day.
- We recommend that you try to include it in your daily routine in the morning or after work.
There are lots of breathing exercises you can do to help relax. Most people take short, shallow breaths into their chest. It can make you feel anxious and zap your energy. With these techniques, you'll learn how to take bigger breaths, all the way into your belly.
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position. Get set to learn how to breathe stress-free like babies.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out.
- Your chest should not move. A baby does not restrict its belly while breathing.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Do this with ease.
- Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
Picture a vision Breathing:
- Close your eyes if they're open. Take a few big, deep breaths.
- Breathe in. As you do that, imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm.
- Try to feel it throughout your body.
- Breathe out. While you're doing it, imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension.
- Now use a word or phrase with your breath. As you breathe in, say in your mind, "I breathe in peace and calm."
- As you breathe out, say in your mind, "I breathe out stress and tension."
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
Muscle control & relaxation breathing:
- Lie comfortably on the floor. Get ready for Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
- Take a few deep breaths to relax.
- Breathe in. Tense the muscles of your feet.
- Breathe out. Release the tension in your feet.
- Breathe in. Tense your calf muscles.
- Breathe out. Release the tension in your calves.
- Work your way in the upward direction of your body. Tense each muscle group.
- This includes your legs, belly, chest, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck, and face.
- Then breathe out. Release the tension in those muscles. Relax for a few minutes.
These breathing exercises should leave you relaxed.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.