Ever notice what happens to the breath when we get scared? Anxious? Angry? We usually either hold the breath or breathe in rapid, short bursts. And what happens to the body as a result? It gets increasingly tense. The sympathetic nervous system – the home of our “fight or flight response” – is triggered and our stress levels soar, which triggers more irregular breath.
We may think of these responses as involuntary, but we can consciously train ourselves to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that allows us to rest and relax. Slow, deep breaths are the key. Whenever you feel your breath changing in reaction to a stressful or scary situation, remind yourself to pause and take a deep breath in and out. Do it as often as you need to help defuse the situation. You may not be able to control what’s happening, but you can learn to train yourself how to react to adverse situations.