One of the main culprits that defeat us is stress. That 6-letter word can get the best of us. I used to think I was immune to stress and it didn’t affect me. Little did I realize it was always affecting me. Stress was affecting me, my attitude, my driving habits, and my speech.
As a young boy, I grew up with a stutter which affected my confidence and withheld me from speaking up in class. I had many years of speech therapy and it never really worked. I spent countless hours with therapists annunciating words and working on slowing down. It was a good workaround but we never got to the root cause.
I was fortunate to have attended the US Naval Academy Prep School after high school and later the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. At this prestigious program, they identified my speech impediment and had me do a special 4-week class at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I did not realize it then, but that was the start of my breath training.
This amazing program taught me to breathe and use the breath to control the airflow over my vocal cords. I learned this in the summer of 2000. I did not realize the power I had until recently.
Over the last 3-years, I have been meditating and diving into the Holy Bible almost every day. These two tools in my life have made me focus on my mind over my muscle. Training the mind is the secret weapon I wish I would have known in the past, but I am lucky to have found its usefulness today. The practice of calming my mind has allowed me to focus on my breathing.
I also read the book “Breath: The Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor, and that led me down my breathing journey that I am still traveling today. One specific example is the use of nasal breathing, which has been a big part of my shift. I always believed I could only breathe through my mouth because if I tried to solely breathe through my nose I would feel like I’m suffocating. After giving it some time and daily practice I was able to master it over a few months. I can now exercise at lower intensities (sub-threshold) with my mouth closed for the duration of the bout.
The calming effect of breathing in conjunction with mindfulness and prayer has helped me beat my stutter, as well as destress my system. I can now confidently say when I am stressed and when I am not. And I, fortunately, have many more days of decreased stress vs increased stress days.
How it Helps
Why am I telling you this? Because I know that breathing techniques can help decrease stress. At our mindfulness clinic a couple of weeks ago, Jose Maresma talked about breathing practice techniques and how to do them. Some of the drills like box breathing, nasal breathing, etc. are some simple ways to improve your breathing.
- One of my go-to techniques for down-regulating is 4/16/8/4 breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 16 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. One of the top breathing coaches in the world Brian Mackenzie shares his insight on how to use the technique in this video.
What I do
I am an audio and visual learner, so the use of the Calm app has been very helpful to get me to focus on my breathing. Each meditation that I do has guided drills to get me to improve my breathing. There are also specific programs that will help focus on a particular goal.
I have also seen improvement in my swimming. A couple of years ago I invested in a swim coach and he transformed my life by improving my technique. Read more about my swim journey here. Overall, I can relax in the water and not feel like I’m going to drown!
Breathing properly and staying relaxed was the most important thing we figured out. I was always panicking for breath which would make me do all sorts of funky stuff in the water. But, being able to breathe calmly has helped me stay more buoyant and not panic.
Destress your body by breathing better. I am not saying that this will take away all your stress, but giving the body the ability to be in a stress-free environment will help you find a better balance in the long run. The more stress-free you can stay, the easier it will be to make that your new baseline. I spent the majority of my life stressed out and I didn’t even know it. I can now recognize stress and hit it before it hits me by taking some deep breaths.
One takeaway from this post is to try to incorporate nasal breathing while you drive. Focus on this will lower your blood pressure in the driver’s seat, and allow you to focus more while you drive the speed limit! Listen to more about this here!
If you want more help destressing your life and creating healthier habits, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to helping you live with less stress.