The easiest way to reduce stress

Let’s start with a really short anatomy lesson.

Some of the critical processes in our body run on autopilot which is why we don’t have to think about blood pressure, body temperature or breathing rates. They happen automatically due to the autonomic nervous system.

Autonomic nervous system

The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two main systems:

  1. Sympathetic nervous system
  2. Parasympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system orchestrates what is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response when you are under stress. It increases your heart rate and blood flow, quickens your breath, and dilates your pupils.

The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is sometimes called the rest-and-digest system. After the activation of the fight-or-flight response, this system slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure to bring your body back to a relaxed state.

Now you’re probably thinking…okay, sounds good. But how do I access that system that’s going to calm me down?

Breathing

Deep belly breathing, also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, activates the parasympathetic nervous system. You may be familiar with this type of breathing if you practice yoga or meditation.

Simply stated: taking deep breaths will help stop the flow of stress hormones and calm you down.

How to do deep belly breathing

  • Sit in a chair, with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep your spine straight, your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose so that you feel your belly expand.
  • Exhale slowly and completely (through either your mouth or nose) drawing your navel in towards your spine.
  • Try to extend the length of the exhale to be longer than your inhale.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

This short exercise will take you about 30 seconds and can result in many benefits, including slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, reducing the flow of stress hormones, and greater focus.


Sharon Danzger is the founder of Control Chaos and author of ‘Super-Productive: 120 Strategies to Do More and Stress Less‘. Her firm helps clients improve personal productivity, performance, and well-being through corporate training as well as individual and group coaching.