*This article has been updated in January 2020.
Beginning a conversation about stress…
Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from low-level chronic stress. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that up to 90% of doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has declared stress a hazard of the workplace. They estimate that stress costs American business more than $300 billion every year. Stress can cause headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain or loss, skin conditions, asthma, a weakened immune system, depression and anxiety.
Dr. Andrew Weil, trained at Harvard, is based in Arizona. His specialties are integrative and alternative medicines. In 1994, Weil founded and has since directed the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. He has developed a breathing technique that is based on pranayama, an ancient Indian practice meaning “regulation of breath”. We know that it is important to fill our lungs when we breathe. This technique allows oxygen to better fill the lungs and produce a calming effect. Extra oxygen can have a relaxing effect on the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.
When we are stressed, the nervous system becomes over-stimulated which can lead to anxiety and sleep loss. We also develop a habit of shallow breathing when stressed, which is unhealthy for many reasons. This technique slows the heart rate, improves digestion, lowers blood pressure and improves mental clarity. Fans of this technique swear that they fall asleep at night within 60 seconds when they use it.
How to do 4-7-8 breathing:
Let all the air out of your lungs through your mouth with a ‘whoosh’.
Place the tip of your tongue on the ridge of your gums just behind your front teeth
Breath all the way in for 4 counts
Hold for 7 counts
Breath out in 8 counts
Without a break repeat three more times
Do a set of four, at least twice a day. Each 4-7-8 should take 60 seconds or less. After a month, when you are comfortable with it, you may increase to 8 breath cycles at a time.
This breathing technique should be used to diffuse any stressful event. Stress caused by small things like a traffic incident, or large issues like financial pressures, loneliness, loss, health problems can be alleviated with this technique. It can also help with food cravings. View it as a tool you can pull out anytime for a quick fix.
Are you, or someone you know is in the Most Stressed Age Group in America? This ASE article will help you find out, and how to help.