Anti Stress Secret
How much money would you pay to be able to release stress, lower your heart rate, calm your central nervous system, anywhere, at any time… in LESS than a minute?!
Save your money. It’s FREE! No prescription required. No appointment to remember. And you already own all the equipment: Your Lungs!
Let me introduce you to the simple, proven, science-based practice of Box Breathing.
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Good morning or good afternoon or good evening or… okay good middle of the night, I get it no judgment. I’m Rick Green as promised in my last video, not my last last but my previous video, I’m going to demonstrate a simple practice to help you recover from upsets, anger, anxiety, frustrations, or those sudden shocks that produce those noxious emotions which can then swirl around endlessly.
My mind and my body become these closed loops of toxic thoughts, adrenaline starts on the cortisol and my calmness and my peace which was so precious to me… it’s gone.
In a previous video Anxious to Serene we looked deep inside ourselves and discovered our autonomic nervous system, it’s actually two complementary systems kind of like hot and cold taps.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system despite the name is your infamous fight or flight response, it’s your early warning system to any and every possible threat and it operates faster than the speed of conscious thought, it’s part of our geese, but oh it’s a lamp, it’s part of our primitive core of the brain, what’s known as the reptile brain and in a fraction like thousands of a second it senses possible dangers, it actually fights a fright by making you more frightening, slow motion film shows that when someone is startled they make this scary face and yell briefly.
A second later of course the threat message reaches the higher conscious brain and those functions kick in and they say oh oh it’s not a snake it’s a garden hose, we should stop with who left the garden hose, what an idiot I am.
You’re not an idiot that initial reaction is universal, not just in humans and it could save your life if the threat really was a snake, or an oncoming car, or your teacher asking you to hand in your homework.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
Once the threat has passed the parasympathetic network which is your vagus nerve steps in, slow down, slow down, heart, stop panting, breath, lungs, just take it easy, relax, muscles calm down, bowels be gone, stress hormones, don’t slam the door behind you adrenaline, but here’s the problem, your sympathetic system is not just quick it’s dramatically powerful, that’s why we remember terrible frights for years afterwards or still have scary dreams about report cards when you’re an adult.
By contrast the parasympathetic system is slow, unwinding is gradual, takes time to let it go, the vagus nerve needs time to undo the stress and create tranquility or bring you back to tranquility, not that I’ve been tranquil in the last 30 years.
Become Less Reactive
Luckily there’s a way to speed up the process and actually become less reactive in the future, there’s actually a way to access this autonomic or automatic vagus nerve system now you can’t consciously switch off your adrenal glands or automatic and you can’t just simply dial down your heartbeat and set it for 68, and while you’re at it the thermostat for 68, doesn’t work that way, but our lungs ah those we can consciously control.
You already know when your mind and body are relaxed you take deeper breaths, conversely when we take deeper breaths our mind and body can relax, this is why awareness of your breathing is at the core of yoga and meditation, it’s our access point. I can consciously modify my breathing even stop breathing until mommy gives me candy… getting dizzy.
So taking slow deep breaths signals to the rest of our body that it’s okay, everything’s fine, relax dude relax, relax, by how much? Well let’s see, join me if you like in this specific type of breathing called box breathing. I should do one of those unboxing videos.
First I’ll see what my normal heart rate and blood pressure are using a blood pressure machine, all right so let’s look what we got here, 122, and diastolic 71, pulse 80. Okay well I wasn’t totally relaxed. One more time just relax, so take two, so I’m at 116 over 75, heart rate is almost at 80 which is not bad for a guy in his 90s, I went away that was my IQ.
Right let’s see what it is when I’m stressed, gonna read the news, oh God really what’s wrong with people? Okay that’s enough of that, I’m at 131 over 79, pulse is almost 90, yikes!
When we’re afraid when we’re surprised, angry, panicked, adrenalized, our breathing, our blood pressure, our heart rate, soar. Some blood vessels expand others like around our skin dilate, our hands get cold, we pant, gasp short breaths, but not just for a snake but to anything, a headline, a rumo,r a potential shortage of toilet paper.
Now let’s see what one minute of box breathing can do.
How to Box Breathe
- Sit comfortably, supported
- Relax your shoulders
- Relax your face
- Close your eyes
- Take a slow deep breath in through the nose, hold for three seconds
- Exhale for three seconds
- Pause for three seconds
- Inhale for three seconds
- Hold two three seconds
- Exhale for three seconds
- Pause for three seconds
- Repeat for 3 to 4 rounds
You might want to manage a longer count, 4 seconds perhaps.
All right so how did I do? Oh 106 over 75 heart rate 62. All right and that’s good! It was just three deep breaths, just three deep breaths can put you back in control when you’re under attack, upset, worried, or you’ve had a fight.
If you don’t deal with the stress chemicals they can linger in your body for a very long time, the fight-or-flight chemicals are powerful, the reaction is strong, we can actually become addicted to worrying, to being afraid, angry, confrontational, always looking for a fight, always worried about everything, lying in bed stewing.
Luckily slow deep breathing for less than a minute is free, it’s easy, you can do it wherever and whenever you want to be in control, even during a conflict at work, or an argument, when you’re driving, or okay when your teenager is driving, whenever and wherever things start spinning out of your control or rather when you notice they are.
If the sympathetic system is fight or flight the vagus nerve is get a grip, you see the box breathing is simple, it’s easy but when you’re totally caught up in a situation, when you’re angry, fearful, anxious upset slow breathing is not on our brain’s menu of options and responses so noticing even slightly “oh this again, flush face, tight chest, I’m getting stressed” you go from being consumed by the anger & fear to noticing.
A little part of you is noticing you’re upset, a part of you becomes more aware, the observer, the neutral observer. You have the feelings, they don’t have you, and this gets easier with practice. Noticing gets easier with practice, this is why a coach or a therapist will ask “how does that make you feel when someone’s upset?” or “you’re really angry now aren’t you?” which shifts a person from a state of being angry to “yeah I’m really noticing anger” labeling it putting a name to it, awareness, they check in, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be upset or angry or afraid but now they can step back, breathe, turn the practical conscious brain back on and choose some solutions, or just choose to let it go, it’s not worth it, what am I doing arguing over this.
So your homework and not just at home is to notice when you’re actually getting activated and be able to step back mentally a little and observe your breathing, your posture, racing, tight jaw and then breathe three or four breaths. Magic.
As I said in the previous video Anxious to Serene there are more practices to stimulate and strengthen the vagus nerve and become more unflappable, is that a word? Un-messable… that isn’t a word, in control.
We’ll cover some of these in other videos but the breathing right now is a great starting place because it’s free, it’s simple, it’s always available and it’s like doing reps to build muscle, these practices have more impact the more you practice the practices which is why they’re called practices, and this practice you to practice whenever practical coming up practice… I’ve lost track of what I was going to say.
Finally a quick trick to preempt upset in the first place, say you get activated every time a particular person calls, we all have them, right? Well change their name on your phone on your contact list to box breathing or like box bb, then when they call you’re reminded “breathe” you forestall fight or flight.