Breathing For Health
Breathing deeply has the power to change the way you feel emotionally, mentally, physically, as well as, how you look. It eases the anxiety of any stressful situation, including dental visits, creating a more relaxed body and mind. Saratoga Springs’s dentist, Dr. Moreau and his staff offer you the tool of deep breathing is an extension of caring about your overall well-being, in addition to your oral health.
Stress, Anxiety, Worry and Deep Breathing
Our bodies respond to worry, anxiety or stress the same way as it responds to fear and excitement. With faster, shallower breathing an increase in heart rate is experienced and carbon dioxide levels in the blood begin to drop resulting in increased feelings of anxiety, and the ‘fight or flight’ stress cycle becomes activated again. Controlled breathing helps to restore and maintain your carbon dioxide levels, maximizing the levels of oxygen in the blood, increasing cell saturation with oxygen, decrease the heart rate, lower the blood pressure, reversing the concentration of stress hormones and return you to a state of equilibrium.
The brain needs a lot of oxygen to function at an optimal level (it uses about 80% of the oxygen present in the body) and when oxygen is lacking we become affected physical, mental and emotional well-being. When depressed or anxious, your breathing becomes shallow, shoulders are slumped and your lungs are collapsed preventing your blood to not receive the oxygen it needs and as a result the brain suffers.
Breathing for Health. Breathing for Life
The benefits of deep breathing include: relaxation, an improved ability to handle stress, regulation of emotions, improves mental clarity to the present moment and improves being centered during challenging situations. It transforms our tension energy into relaxation energy turning off the release of stress hormones and turning on the body’s ‘relaxation response which involves lowering blood pressure, decreased heart rate, and a feeling of calm. Deep rhythmic breathing with a change in posture allows the lungs to expand, relaxes muscle tension, balancing brain chemistry by increasing the levels of ‘feel good’ hormones (oxytcin and prolactin) while decreasing the stress hormones )cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine.
What kind of breather are you?
Chest or belly, nose or mouth? If you don’t know if you are a nose or mouth breather, ask a friend. If you place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, take normal breaths and while looking down see if the hand on your chest rises first. If so, you tend to breathe from your chest. If your hand on your abdomen rises first, you are more of an abdominal breather. You want to be more of an abdominal breather than chest breather.
Simple Breathing Techniques
These simple breathing techniques will serve to relax you in any perceived stressful, worrisome or anxious situation, including dental visits.
The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle that lies at the base of the lungs and is our most efficient breathing muscle. During stressful situations this muscle rarely is engaged and in people with chronic stress the ability to take deep breaths is hindered. Engaging the diaphragm in breathing strengthens the diaphragm, makes breathing easier and increases the ability to take normal breathes so as to maximize the amount of oxygen in the blood. Try this:
- sit comfortably upright in a chair placing one hand on your chest and the other stomach
- breathe in slowly through your nose so that the hand on your stomach moves, and not the hand on your chest
This breathing technique will interrupt the ‘fight or flight’ response and trigger the ‘relaxation response’. When this happens the body experiences a lowering in the stress hormone levels and the ‘fight or flight’ response decreases and ultimately stops.
Simple Deep Breathing
The secret of effect deep breathing begins with a full exhalation, so as to empty the lungs completely prior to inhaling. Proceed as follows.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your hand on your knees
- Let a long, gentle sigh through your mouth and relax your shoulders
- Pause and breath in slowly through your nose to a count of 5
- Pause at the top of the inhalation- for a count of 2
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth- counting to 5
- Tense your belly muscles to expel all the air in the lungs
- At the bottom of the exhalation, count for 2 counts|
- Inhale slowly through your nose – to the count of 5
- Expand your belly as you inhale
- Repeat 5-10 times
Your mind might wander during this exercise, don’t worry. Just refocus on your counting. Try thinking of a happy color(like yellow) when inhaling and a droopy color (like grey) when you breath out, just to mix it up.