I want you to do something to help reduce your stress right now. Stop and notice your breathing. When you take a breath, does your chest or stomach expand out? If you are like most Americans, you will find you breathe through your chest. Chest breathing is a natural reaction to a tight /cramped abdominal area due to stressed adrenal glands and digestive tract.

Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that breathing naturally gets shifted from the lower abdomen to the chest simply because the stomach becomes tight from stress or indigestion. The stomach in TCM, is associated with worry and pensiveness, which describes the average American’s life. The diaphragm is a muscle that lies right below the lungs. This muscle is there to help aid your lungs in breathing so the lungs do not have to do all the work. Another important fact is the diaphragm is attached to the vagus nerve. This nerve is connected directly to the brain, and it is a nerve that is affected heavily by our emotions. So if you are emotionally stressed, the vagus nerve gets stressed and this inhibits the diaphragm from helping the lungs expand and contract.

Because of this, your lungs work without the help of the diaphragm, which can lead to chest breathing. Chest breathing is a clear sign of mental and emotional stress, which hinders the flow of energy to your adrenal glands and kidneys. These two organs are vital in the management of stress. Holding in anger, learning to hold back tears, or living in fear will cramp the diaphragm muscle that lies below the lungs.

You can reduce stress by stimulating the vagus nerve by your breathing. Think of it this way, your breathing is an automatic function of the body, but it is also an action that you can control just by thinking about it. This means that breathing is a function that can influence the conscious and unconscious mind. When fears are ingrained in the mind, you can use breathing to alleviate the stress that has been programmed.

Practicing a new breathing technique can help reduce stress and support your diaphragm.

Try this:

Practice for 1 minute a day breathing through your stomach…trust me, it is tough to do at first.

Breathe through the nose and out through the mouth with the tongue pushed up against the roof of the mouth (stimulates the pituitary gland). Also, try putting a positive quote in your mind while you do this for 1 minute a day, to help reduce stress.

You will be surprised how good your stomach, digestion, and stress level will improve by following these steps. Try it for 1 week and let me know how you feel.

I also recommend a great book called “The Relaxation Response” by Dr. Herbert Benson. It’s a great clinical trial about certain techniques to help ease the mind.

Be Well,
Dr. Motley

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