Breathe Your Way Through COVID-19

45% of the population aged 16-85 will experience a mental health disorder at some time in their lifetime. Mental health disorders including anxiety and depression can have a negative impact on an individual’s physical and psychological wellbeing.

With the current COVID-19 outbreak, many of us may experience increased feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear. Whether we or someone we know is waiting for results from a coronavirus test, suffering from co-morbidities that puts us or our loved ones at higher risks, work in a field where we come into contact with people, have been made redundant or have had a drastic pay cut, or have been working from home but have to look after the children, living during a worldwide pandemic can take a toll on our mental health.

If you are stressed or anxious there are ways to maintain our mental health, while we practice social distancing and self-isolation. Regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, keeping a healthy sleeping routine, and giving yourself a break from continuous breaking news and social media are good ways to manage anxiety and stress. Research has also shown different breathing techniques may also reduce anxiety and stress.

When people are anxious or stressed, they tend to take rapid, shallow, and ineffective breaths using the tops of our chest, this is known as chest breathing. When you are feeling anxious or stressed, you may not be aware that you are even breathing this way. Chest breathing causes an inefficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body resulting in increased heart rate and muscle tension, which may signal a stress response that contributes to anxiety and other emotional disturbances.

Deep breathing using your belly also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can stimulate a relaxation response in our body, which changes the physical and emotional response to anxiety and stress.  There are two breathing techniques that are great ways to activate a relaxation response in our body. You can have a go now!

Firstly, find a quiet place away from any distractions, you can either sit on a comfortable chair or lie on the floor.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Place one hand on your belly, just above your rib cage and the other hand over your sternum (breastbone).
  2. Take a deep breath through your nose and feel the air slowly rise in your belly, while your chest should stay still
  3. Hold your breath for 2 seconds
  4. Slowly breathe out through your mouth and feel your belly fall
  5. Repeat 5-10 times

4-7-8 Breathing

  1. Place one hand on your belly, just above your rib cage and the other hand over your sternum (breastbone).
  2. Take a deep breath through your nose and count to four
  3. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  4. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times

Do not stress if you do not get it right away. These breathing techniques can be difficult to perform correctly when you first start.  For further assistance or to incorporate these breathing techniques into everyday functional movements please contact the team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists at Absolute Balance today on info@absolutebalance.com.au

Daniel Nguyen (B.Sc. Exercise Physiology)

Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AES, AEP) (ESSAM)

 

Reference

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, Australia, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.

Blake Elias, Chen Shen and Yaneer Bar-Yam, Respiryory health for better COVID-19 outcomes version 2, New England Complex Systems Institute (April 18, 2020)

Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adultsFront Psychol. 2017;8:874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874