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Using Breathing to Tame the Fight-or-Flight Response

Many women are under so much daily pressure their bodies seem to be stuck in fight or flight state.

Fear and anxiety trigger our “fight-or-flight “nervous system response. Our ancient ancestors needed this response to survive when faced with danger in their environment; it prepared the body to fight or run.

Nowadays this internal response kicks in when we are under any stress, whether it’s in a moment of physical danger, or stress in our job or in relationships, or even when we replay these moments in our mind.

Living a productive and enjoyable life when in a constant state of anxiety can feel impossible. The body’s stress response can interfere with everyday activities including self-care, caring for family, running a household, and of course, completing tasks at work.

Can you calm the fight-or-flight response?

Having a tool or technique to instantly counter the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response in a moment of stress can be life changing.

The sporting world is one place where a wandering mind in the moment of stress can be the ”kiss of death”. If overcome by anxiety, the athlete will lose the race. If you are not an athlete, just bear with me… You’ll see where this is going!

When athletes line up at the starting blocks, the pressure an athlete feels to perform is immense. Seeing competitors who are as capable, or even more capable can cause feelings of anxiety. Past failures can creep into the mind in this moment of immense stress. That’s why athletes rely on mental tools to help keep the mind and body calm.

A popular tool used by elite athletes is the Quieting Response. This effective breathing exercise is also used by everyday people to achieve calm in moments of stress. The Quieting Response is a combination of elements from different types of yoga and meditation. It includes visualization and deep breathing; Visualization is the process of creating a mental image or intention of the outcome or feeling you desire to happen.

While athletes can use this technique to imagine an event outcome, you can use it to imagine a positive outcome to stressful a situation at work, or in another area of your life. You can also visualize a relaxed feeling of calm and well-being in a moment of intense stress.

The most attractive part of this exercise, apart from how effective it can be, is how quickly it can be implemented - the entire exercise only takes less than ten seconds. However, it’s important to understand that this is a technique that needs to be practiced repeatedly to have a positive effect. Using it once or twice won’t achieve anything.

How to practice the Quieting Response

To use the Quieting Response to calm anxiety, lift mood, or to calm the mind before drifting off to sleep, follow these steps:

  1. Relax your whole body. Close your eyes if you prefer, but if not, your eyes can remain open.
  2. Breathe slowly and smoothly.
  3. Relax your facial muscles and focus attention on the third eye (the space on your forehead between your eyebrows). Feel inner joy.
  4. Raise the corners of your mouth slightly in a peaceful “inner” smile.
  5. Place your tongue gently behind your teeth and relax your jaw.
  6. Imagine having holes in the soles of your feet. Take a deep breath, visualizing your breath as hot air entering the body through the holes in the soles of your feet.
  7. Imagine the hot air flowing up your legs, through your tummy, and then filling your lungs.
  8. Relax each muscle as you visualize the hot air passing by. Breathe out slowly, imagining the air passing from your lungs back through your abdomen, then down your legs, before leaving your body through the holes in the soles of your feet.
  9. Repeat these steps whenever you need to feel calm and relaxed.

The Quieting Response is a powerful technique used by top athletes, including Olympians, to create the right mindset to achieve positive results, but can also help everyday people quickly relieve anxiety, improve mood, and calm the mind enough to enable sleep.

The power of the mind combined with deep breathing may be enough to slow your heart rate and reduce your fight or flight response, helping you return to calm in moments of stress.