How Breathwork Reduces Stress and Overwhelm

How Breathwork Reduces Stress and Overwhelm

By: Rachel Margolis, Trauma & Addiction Informed Certified Professional Coach

We all have those times when we feel stressed and overwhelmed by the
demands of daily life.

When those stressors are compounded by emotional pain from strained
relationships, past or present traumas, unexplained sadness, etc., we may
experience desperate moments of grasping for anything to help us reduce those
feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness, such as:

• People-pleasing behaviors
• Addictive gambling behaviors
• Unhealthy eating habits
• Unhealthy/unsafe sexual behaviors
• Excessive spending
• Lack of daily self-care
• Self-Harming behaviors
• Alcohol abuse
• Opioid/drug abuse

This can lead to an unmanageable life and cause even more stress. It’s a
vicious cycle. One of which I have experienced the agony of living through.

How Constant and Repetitive Stress Impacts Your Body

When you experience emotional or physical stress, your brain signals to your
adrenal glands to release the stress hormones known as adrenaline and cortisol.
Your body responds to these hormones with physical symptoms such as an
increased heart rate, muscle tightness, rapid and shallow breathing, or even
withholding your breath altogether. Stress can also impact your blood pressure,
glucose levels, and immune system.

That is why adults who have experienced continued stress in childhood, such
as abuse, neglect, and abandonment, likely have one or more significant health

While avoiding stress in life is virtually impossible, many tools and resources
are available for those seeking alternative coping behaviors to work through
those moments of overwhelm and stress.

One method you can use anytime and anywhere is intentional breathing,
known as “breathwork.”

What is Breathwork?

Every cell in your body needs oxygen to survive and thrive. Your breath
brings that oxygen into your lungs to distribute to the other parts of your body.
Fortunately, your body’s breathing is automatic. Most do not give thought to
it unless there is a restriction on oxygen. That automated process can be your
ally when encountering emotional and physical stress – especially when
practiced regularly.

Taking deep intentional breaths can slow your heart rate and breathing, relax
your muscles, calm your nervous system, and help bring mental clarity.
Replacing stress with calm.

How To Get Started With Breathwork

A simple intentional breathing technique you can use NOW, anytime and anywhere, is a three-step breathwork exercise I call PIE. Pause. Inhale. Exhale.

1. Pause. When you notice your jaw clenched, your chest tight, your rapid breathing, or you’re having recurring thoughts of worry, etc., pause what you are doing (like pressing the pause button on a TV remote). Put down the dishes.Step away from a conversation. Stop cooking dinner. Put down your phone.
Stop walking…

2. Inhale. After pausing whatever you were doing, take a deep breath
through your nostrils while slowly counting to four in your head. One, two,
three, four. Visualize the air filling up your lungs and nurturing your body.

3. Exhale. Let out that breath through your mouth while slowly counting to
four in your head. One, two, three, four. Visualize the stress, overwhelm, and
worry exiting your body through your lips.

After PIE, notice how it felt to pause, inhale, and exhale. Then, if you choose,
continue with what you were doing.

Yes, it IS as simple as pie!

The Benefits of Breathwork

PIE, or any intentional breathwork, takes time and repetition to reap the full
benefits and impact it can produce. I encourage you to practice breathwork in
moments of lower stress, such as in the shower, brushing your teeth and on
bathroom breaks.

Practice it when you don’t need it, so it is more natural and effective when
you do!

Possible benefits of regular, intentional breathwork:

• Lowered anxiety
• Improved physical health, such as digestive health, heart health, and bonejoint
• Improved mental wellness
• Decrease in impulsive and harmful behaviors
• Improved emotional wellness
• Measurable decrease in PTSD symptoms
• Improved quality of sleep
• Stronger immune system.

Other Breathwork Options

If you desire to dive deeper into breathwork as a regular practice, other
excellent options to try are formal meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Pilates,
to name a few. There are several free online resources available that allow you to
try a variety of breathwork practices and find what works best for YOU!
Just remember, when things feel out of control, when your stress levels are
high, when overwhelm is overwhelming, one thing you DO have control over is
your breath.

Your breath is your ally, your internal resource, your literal lifeline! Breathe

Rachel Margolis is a trauma & addiction-informed certified professional coach, writer, speaker, and horticulturist. 

She has been a group facilitator of experiential, self-discovery workshops since 2014, helping hundreds of men and women break free from non-working patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

As a trauma survivor, Rachel is passionate about living this life to its fullest and helping other women do the same through her coaching practice, Born Enough Life Coaching.

For more information, please visit 

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