I’ve written many blog posts and articles on breathing, but I want to show you how proper breathing has a side effect that’s especially important right now. Proper breathing actually lowers stress. Simply by practicing good breathing you have a powerful weapon against the stress of the last 14 months.
What makes deep breathing so effective? Deep breathing brings more oxygen into your body with the least amount of effort. Right off the bat when you take a well-placed, deep breath, you’ve relaxed your body because you’re not asking it to work harder than it needs to. You also bring in more oxygen, and this has a positive effect on your brain, your energy level, your digestion, and your immunity.
So why do we do we breathe incorrectly? I think it’s a combination of training and stress in our bodies. The training happens because whether you’re a male or female, society shows you images of people with tight abs. In order to get that look, we may hold our stomachs in when we breathe. Add stress to it, and our breathing moves up to the control of the muscles in the upper chest and neck. These are not the strong, ten pound’s worth of muscles like the diaphragm and intercostal muscles that help us breathe correctly. They are the weaker upper chest muscles like the clavicular muscles and the neck muscles.
Let’s try it and see if the difference is clear to you. Stand up and hold your hands against your body so your fingers touch at their tips right above your navel. Now breathe by expanding your stomach so that your fingers pull apart when you take air into your body. This type of breathing I call abdominal-diaphragmatic.
To feel upper chest breathing, press your hands against your stomach so that they hold your stomach in. Now breathe in such a way that your shoulders rise as you inhale. This method will get some air into your body, but not nearly as much as the deeper breathing. Plus, you’re using muscles in your neck, which can have a detrimental effect on your vocal pitch. Not what you want if you’re an on-air professional.
Once you become familiar with abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing, put it to work to let go of stress. The simple procedure of breathing in to the count of 4, holding your breath to the count of 4, and exhaling to the count of 4, done a few times, immediately brings down your stress level. Use this anywhere, at work, in your car, at the dentist’s, or in bed. Just a few deep breaths to this count can work wonders on stress.
I have several other blog posts on breathing that you can find in the handy Categories section on the right side of this page. And if you want to see me demonstrating abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing just click here and watch a 3-minute video. And you will find lots more on breathing and stress control in my two ebooks, BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK and BROADCASTER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE. Just click on the titles to learn more.