A Guide to Proper Breathing Techniques

Breathing is something we rarely think about. It was our first natural action at birth and it happens automatically: Air comes into our lungs and air comes out. But breathing can also have a substantial impact on our mental and physical health. Read more

How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

Panic attacks can make you feel as though your world is collapsing. While you’re in the middle of one, all you can think about is how long it will last and how to stop it. Focusing on it so intently can cause you to become even more panicked. It seems like the worse thing that’s ever happened to you, and you think it’ll last forever. You may even go to the emergency room out of fear for your life.

While panic attacks can feel catastrophic, they don’t last long. Once you learn what to expect, you can find ways to work through and recover from episodes of panic, recovering more quickly and get back to living your life. Read more

Meditation and Anxiety: The Best Meditation Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

Most of us experience anxious thoughts from time to time – whether it’s tension at work, unease in finances, or difficulties in relationships. Even the doubt that comes in a simple “what if” could increase anxiety levels. It’s normal to feel anxiety and yes, even fear, in uncertain situations.

You cannot avoid anxiety, but it is important to deal with it in healthy ways. That’s where the link between meditation and anxiety comes in. 

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How to Stay Calm and Prevent Anxiety From Taking Over

There are thousands of things to worry about every day. It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of the day and let them build up until you have an anxiety attack. Going around in a constant state of anxiety can prevent you from taking part in your life.

Instead of waiting until you have an anxiety attack, there are many techniques you can use to manage your anxiety and prevent it from getting out of hand.

The best thing you can do is practice mindfulness and incorporate calmness into all parts of your life. After all, it’s much easier to prevent anxiety attacks from happening than it is to calm down from them.

Here are some techniques that will help you stay calm when you incorporate them into your daily routine. Read more

What Are the Benefits of Deep Breathing?

The constant demands of loans, job pressure, and social expectation make us more stressed out than we’ve ever been. It’s no wonder that around 18% of the population struggles with anxiety. There’s too much pressure.

In the face of so much stress, many are looking for anything that will help them calm down and become more healthy in today’s world. One of the best ways to do exactly that is to regularly practice deep breathing. However, many people are reluctant to try it, because it seems too simple. How can something as natural as breathing make such a big difference?

Most people breathe from their chest instead of from their diaphragm. This results in shallow breathing that taxes the body and doesn’t give it the amount of oxygen necessary to keep everything running at optimal function.

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How To Stay Calm Under Pressure

In today’s high-stress world, many people hardly have the time to sit down, much less think. Bombarded by financial worries, parenting strife, constant phone notifications, demanding bosses, and a high-wire political scene, we’re all under pressure in some way, shape, or form.

So, what’s the secret to staying sane in a world ready to run you ragged? Mastering how to stay calm under pressure is the key to navigating all the various stresses that life can throw at you. Follow these steps to help reduce stress and stay calm under the chronically pressured environment of today’s world.

Step 1: Understanding Pressure and Stress

While we’ll begin to talk about how you can identify what’s putting you under pressure in just a moment, it’s important to understand stress. As the Mountain State Center for Independent Living puts it, Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand.”

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5 Breathing Exercises for Better Sleep

5 Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a tough task. In fact, a Gallup study found that 40% of Americans get fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous physical health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Additionally, a lack of sleep has detrimental effects on mood, leading you to be more irritable, less productive, and unfocused. Read more

How to Feel a Calm Streak

Spire tracks the rate of your breath and categorizes patterns into different “streaks”. Depending on the rate and consistency of your breath you may be in calm, tense, or focus streak.

But what is a streak? How does breath correlate to your state of mind? Check out this infographic to learn how your breath behaves while your calm and how Spire tracks it.

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How your breathing changes in a state of calm

In this post we discuss what happens to your breathing when you’re calm.  Over the coming weeks, we’ll post similar articles on tense and focus.

Adults breathe at 12-20 cycles per minute (cpm), fluctuating depending on a number of factors including current state of mind. As a result, the rhythms and patterns of our respiration help us assess how our days are really going.

We use the word calm to refer to a state where the one feels physically relaxed while mentally aware. This can happen often during a nice conversation, relaxing music, meal, reading a book, or being in nature. 

How calm is reflected in the body

When the body is calm, a number of physiological changes occur (‘rest and digest’ compared to ‘fight or flight’): lower blood pressure, perspiration, heart rate, and respiration rate to name a few.

The decrease in respiration rate depends on how calm you are feeling. For example, if you normally breathe at 18 cycles per minute (about 3.3 seconds per breath or spb), feeling calm may drop your rate down to 14 cpm. Feeling really relaxed may drop it to 10 cpm (6 spb) and with deep meditation ~6 cpm (so-called ‘resonant frequency’ [3]) or even lower.

In addition to a slower rate, other changes occur. The inhalation duration can shrink, thereby emphasizing the parasympathetic component of the respiratory cycle (which is when heart rate decreases) [10]. Changes like this during meditation result in decreases in both oxygen consumption and carbon-dioxide production [2].

With calm, the brain and body can devote time and energy to processes like digestion, self-healing, and regeneration. The effects can be sustained even after relaxing stimuli (like relaxing music) are removed [9].

Being calm isn’t just good for your body – it’s good for your mind. The brain, when it’s not feeling threatened and stressed, can engage in complex cognitive planning, problem-solving, and decision-making [1] using the prefrontal cortex (PFC). So if you really want to perform to your best, ask yourself how much of your day you spend in a state of calm.

Creating calm

Respiration is unique because it is the only autonomic function that we have direct, immediate, conscious control over. This means it acts as the tangible ‘way in’ to affect our nervous system and our state of mind. By slowing your respiration and ensuring inhale and exhale are regulated, you bring your mind into a state of calm, reducing pain [6, 7], creating cognitive clarity, and even increasing heart rate variability (HRV) [4], a measure of vagal tone (parasympathetic activity). What’s powerful is that you can change your respiratory behavior so quickly and easily that it doesn’t distract you from cognitive performance [5].

Even sighing (which is a type of deep breathing) is powerful and useful. Sighs are methods by which the body provides instant stress relief [8], essentially a ‘reset button’ for your body. This is quite possibly the simplest action you can take for your own health and wellbeing – you don’t even have to get up!

By being aware and in control of our breathing, we give ourselves a tool to live life with balance, take care of our brains and nervous systems, and to live with our values in mind. In this moment and the next.

Figure from LiveMedical.net

References

1. Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 10(6), 410–422.

2. Beary JF, Benson H. A simple psychophysiologic technique which elicits the hypometabolic changes of the relaxation response. Psychosom Med. 1974 Mar-Apr;36(2):115-20.

3. Lehrer, P.M., Vaschillo, E., Vaschillo, B. (2000). Resonant Frequency Biofeedback Training to Increase Cardiac Variability: Rationale and Manual for Training. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Sept 2000, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 177-191.

4. Lin IM, Tai LY, Fan SY. (2013). Breathing at a rate of 5.5 breaths per minute with equal inhalation-to-exhalation ratio increases heart rate variability. Int J Psychophysiol. 2014 Mar;91(3):206-11.

5. Moraveji, N., Hagiwara, T. (2012). BreathTray: Augmenting Respiration Self-Regulation without Cognitive Deficit. Extended abstracts of ACM CHI 2012. Austin, TX.

6. Park E, Oh H, Kim T. (2013). The effects of relaxation breathing on procedural pain and anxiety during burn care. Burns. Sep;39(6):1101-6.

7. Schaffer, S., Yucha, C. B. (2004). Relaxation & pain management: The relaxation response can play a role in managing chronic and acute pain. American Journal of Nursing, 104(8), 75-82.

8. Vlemincx, E., Taelman, J., Van Diest, I., Van den Bergh, O. (2010). Take a deep breath: the relief effect of spontaneous and instructed sighs. Physiol Behav. 2010 Aug 4;101(1):67-73.

9. White, JM. (1999). Effects of relaxing music on cardiac autonomic balance and anxiety after acute myocardial infarction. Am J Crit Care July 1, 1999. vol. 8 no. 4 220-230.

10. Wolkove, N., Kreisman, H., Darragh, D., Cohen, C., Frank, H. (1984). Effect of transcendental meditation on breathing and respiratory control. Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 March 1984 Vol. 56 no. 3, 607-612.

How breath can help you stay calm - from spire.io