Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Breathing and cortisol

We all have times where our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are increased. Higher levels of this hormone contributes to feeling stressed, tight muscles (including that clenched jaw), weight gain, and sleep disturbances, among others. Breathing helps reduce it.

I dig that you don't need anything special in order to make this amazing tool work for you. Any time and any place (other than when operating heavy machinery), we can breathe. When I notice that I am not at my optimum, I breathe.

A dandelion
My first step is to empty my lungs. I breathe out… breathe out more, and when my lungs are empty… I force even more out. That ensures that I have emptied any stagnant residual air from the bottom of my lungs. Slowly, I begin to take air in, through my nose. I follow it, in my mind's eye, down my trachea, to the bottom of my lungs, making sure that the tiny alveoli are being nourished. As I focus on the path of air, I'm counting, until my diaphragm is fully expanded. In the beginning, one may count to three or four. Eventually, you will count to a higher number. Pause, when you have had your fill, and then more slowly, allow the air to escape, through pursed lips, counting to a number that is twice the number you used while breathing in. Continue this loop for ten breaths, remembering to pause when your lungs are full. Likely, if you are new to this type of breathing, you will feel light-headed. That's how you know that you're doing a great job. You will feel more relaxed. You will be aware that your muscles have let go, you'll likely be over your urge to overeat, and if you do this before bed, you will sleep better, setting yourself up for a great day tomorrow.

A cave painting
From Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0
When people lived in caves, danger was real. Cortisol levels rose, we fought or fled and the stress hormone was essentially used up. The most simple technique for dealing with our protective mechanism today: BREATHE!


  1. Well said. It is so monumentally important for us to be educated about stress, its effects, and how to get relief. So glad you are doing this in your own voice! It's a voice that people can really hear, because it doesn't judge... and its got humor. I especially dug the part about "digging" paired with "tool"! Can't wait for more!

    1. Thank you. I will continue to do my best and blog about the things that I believe contribute to my healthy and magical life. I feel encouraged by your words.