Everyone has a simple tool at their disposal to help them cope with stress.

Breath is something that is accessible within each and everyone one of us whether we’re stuck in traffic, sitting in a dentist chair or coping with first-date jitters. Something as simple as pausing and counting a few controlled breaths can immediately help you release stress.

Listen to this simple breathing exercise to learn more, and keep reading below for more advice on managing stress.

As a former psychiatric nurse, I know all about stress. From long overnight shifts, high patient loads, short-staffing and the unpredictable environment a nursing unit can provide, stress is a familiar friend of mine.

Like many people, I have sometimes felt powerless when life becomes stressful. But rediscovering the connection to my breath helped me feel more empowered to weather life’s storms.

In moments of high stress, we experience the fight-or-flight response. This protective yet sometimes overwhelming state can increase our heart rate and blood pressure. Learning how to work with your breath using breathing exercises such as the one I shared, though, can help ease you out of this high-stress response and help you shift to a more relaxed state often called “rest and digest.”

To make this breathing exercise a habit, try pairing it with something you do every day. Take a few deep breaths before answering an email or responding to a text. Practice your breathing right before you leave the house or start your workday.

Life’s stressors will still be there when you open your eyes, but mindfulness and deep breathing can support your body’s natural ability to cope with them.

Dora Kamau is a Headspace meditation teacher in Los Angeles and a former psychiatric nurse who approaches her practice through the lens of social and racial justice, clinical psychology and science. You can find her on Instagram at @dorakamau.

Well+Being and Headspace have teamed up to bring you 3-minute meditations for every day. To learn more about our partnership please read here

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