Breathing is the most underrated, underappreciated stress management tool we have. Breathing keeps us alive. However, when we’re constantly on the move, our breathing can work against us.
According to Bill Banick, who co-owns, with his wife, Kristin, New Haven, Conn.-based BigFaceLove Yoga, stressful situations have a tendency to make us shorten, or momentarily, stop our breath. This affects the nervous system and signals the brain that there’s something going on. The result is a “fight or flight” response: the sympathetic nervous system pumps adrenaline through the body and sends cortisone into the bloodstream. Repeated continuously, this can cause constant wear and tear on the organs.
Good breathing, however, has a counter effect.
“When you relax and take in deep breaths, you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to get to work,” says Bill. “By breathing in through the belly, drawing the breath into the body, and releasing it out, the calming effect does good things for you, both inside and out.”
Traveling moms have some great opportunities to “breathe to achieve sanity:”
On an airplane. You’ve adjusted your seat belt and prepare for take-off. Ready to reach for the laptop? Not yet, says Bill. “Altitude affects blood pressure and the air you’re breathing is being re-circulated throughout the cabin. It’s important to pay attention to your breath.” TIP: Take 10 deep, full breaths before wheels up. Upon landing, do the same — before struggling to pull your carry-on out of the overhead compartment.
In the car. “Bring observance and breathing to your driving,” suggests Bill. “Sitting in a car is a good time to challenge your body to sit up straight, relax your shoulders, loosen your grip on the steering wheel, and breathe.” TIP: Take five minutes to drive in silence each day, inhaling deeply for a count of five and exhaling for the same.
At the hotel. You’ve checked into your room and are ready to run to the cocktail reception. But wait. Before you hurry off, pause and take notice of the room as your temporary personal space. TIP: Sit comfortably on the bed or floor and take 10 deep, full breaths before grabbing your card key.
On vacation. Take advantage of coveted “alone time” during your morning shower to practice breathing. “Steam opens the nasal passages,” says Bill. “Inhaling the warm water and blowing it out clears everything.” TIP: Rub on a little massage oil before entering the shower and enjoy the soothing, calming effect.