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Why Deep Breathing is My First Line of Defense Against Stress or Trauma

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

Have you ever noticed that when you get advice on coping with stress generally one of the first things you hear is to do deep breathing? What’s the big deal? How can simply stopping and taking some deep breaths help you combat anxiety, trauma, a bad experience or even that annoying deadline? Could it help you heal or even lose weight? Wait a second that might be going to far. But is it?


Obviously making a habit to do deep breathing on a daily basis is not going to start shedding the pounds. But lowering your stress hormones can help in line with diet and proper exercise to see the scale start moving when nothing else seems to be working. Stress wreaks havoc on our health and well being. The problem is even if we aren’t currently experiencing a stressful situation our body is already primed and ready to go if we have experienced any kind of trauma or chronic stressor.



The part of our central nervous system(CNS) that manages our fight and flight response is the sympathetic nervous system. Now you want this to be working when a burglar breaks in or your house is on fire and you need to evacuate. Have you ever wondered how a man can lift a car off someone in a feat that seems impossible? That’s adrenaline that is released in a cascade that begins with the sympathetic nervous system. But... do you want that system to gear for combat when a co-worker says a negative comment or when your kid dumps their milk for the 3rd time? No, you want to be able to tell yourself that you are not in danger and this is just a minor issue.




So what does this all have to do with deep breathing. Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to turn down the volume on your sympathetic nervous system . You are hearing that annoying fire detector chirp because it is overly sensitive or malfunctioning. I understand the urge to take the alarm down and just take the batteries out but we need a fire alarm for real danger. Deep breathing helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the side of your nervous system that is responsible for rest and digestion so you can recharge your battery. Have you ever had to run to the restroom after a stressful situation? Your sympathetic nervous system is turned on and your digestion is turned off. Oops! You can see how overtime this can lead to a lot of health issues because you aren’t digesting things properly.


So how do you know how to do deep breathing? In today’s day and age there is an app for literally everything!!! I love that there is deep breathing apps that can take you through the steps making it easy for anyone to do. One trauma therapist said for individuals that have experienced trauma, 30 minutes a day of deep breathing is crucial. I would start with 5 to 10 minutes and work your way up. Consider doing it to start your day or to relax and wind down. You can do it! You are worth the effort!

By Shirey Horner

FNLP, ACSM EP-C

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