Breathing deeply in moments of stress, or anytime during the day, brings many benefits such as better circulation, decreased anxiety, and reduced blood pressure.
Breathing is an automatic function of the body that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain. When we feel stressed, our breathing rate and pattern change as part of the 'fight-or-flight response'.
Fortunately, we also have the power to deliberately change our own breathing. Scientific studies have shown that controlling your breath can help to manage stress and stress-related conditions. Breath control is also used in practices such as yoga, tai chi, and some forms of meditation. Many people use their breathing to help promote relaxation and reduce stress.
The primary role of breathing is to absorb oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs. Muscles that control the movement of the lungs are the diaphragm (a sheet of muscle underneath the lungs) and the muscles between the ribs.
When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body.
Shallow over-breathing, or hyperventilation, can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Controlling your breathing can help to improve some of these symptoms.