The holidays are coming up and likely full of excitement and likely some stress. One of the best ways to lessen the affects of stress is to take some slow deep breaths down into your belly. Here is why. When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the system that says, "Get ready! We are about to be chased by tigers and lions and bears!!!" When it does, among other things, your muscles tense, your pulse quickens and your breath becomes shallow. This slows digestion and cell regeneration because energy is going elsewhere. Chronic stress leads to all sorts of illness as written in this article;
When you take a deep, slow breath down into you belly and expanding your diaphragm, you are essentially telling your nervous system, "We're good. There is no danger!" Even better, this "therapy" is completely free and accessible to anyone.
When I give people massage, half my job is to get their nervous system to slow down and trust my work. Your tissues are amazing and stronger than you may give it credit. If your nervous system is on guard, your muscles will not relax well no matter how much pressure someone gives you. For this reason, your massage is much more affective when you take deep breaths, especially if a spot feels particularly sore. This is also why I move and talk slowly during a massage, why I keep at least one hand on my client the whole time, why I choose music without words and with a slow tempo, why I take deep breaths while I'm massaging a person and why I use relaxed body language myself. All of this speaks to my client's nervous system and affects the outcome of the massage.
You can do these things as well. Next time you find yourself stressed, check your breathing, check how fast you are walking and notice what speed and volume you are talking. Bring it all down a notch by taking a few deep breaths, and you'll be amazed at the change in stress levels.
Adinah Barlow has been a massage therapist since 2007 and Self-Care Coach since early 2017. She believes that when people prioritize their own well-being, everything else and everyone else in their life becomes exponentially better.