Stressful circumstances often stimulate a fight or flight response in people.
“Stress releases the hormone cortisol into our blood stream which raises heart beat, increases breathing and puts a tremendous amount of stress on our veins,” says Dr. Halland an owner of a vein clinic in NYC.
Unfortunately, long term stress can cause a myriad of health issues, so the best thing you can do when feeling stress is to keep breathing.
The first of the three breathing exercises you can use to relieve stress is simply to alternate your breathing through your nose and mouth. Basically, all that you do here is to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Inhaling through the nose brings in deeper oxygen to calm down your heart and pulse, and exhaling through the mouth lets you expel more carbon dioxide from the lungs. Feeling like you are ‘sighing’ in each exhale is also partially relaxing.
A second breathing exercise is to also be mindful of your breathing consciously, but do it all through your nose while counting. Inhaling through the nostrils while mentally counting from one to four, and then exhaling again through the nostrils while counting one to four again is how you do this one. You’ll likely find it’s impossible to get all the way to four on your first inhale, and it will likely take a few exhales to get to four on those. That’s okay. The point of this one is to slow down your breathing over a few minutes. When you slow down your breathing, you slow down your pulse and lower your blood pressure.
The third breathing exercise comes from yoga and is rather similar. It’s also in and out through the nose, but does not involve counting. Instead, just imagine that you are at the beach. Your inhales and exhales should sound like ocean waves crashing in and rolling out. This is called ‘victorious’ breathing.
Any of these three breathing exercises can help you relieve just enough stress to continue your day. Here’s a video that can offer you further insight on how to calm your stress and anxiety through breathing.
Since there is significant overlap between cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy, it is most often combined as cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT). When it is approached separately there are some notable difference.
Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy focus on different aspects of underlying behavior, which dictates the therapist’s approach. Cognitive therapy is rooted in thought processes and perception of situations. Essentially, negative thought processes (some of which may be automatic) are what is influencing negative feelings. The goal of cognitive therapy is to actively change negative thought processes and possibly alter feelings of depression and/or anxiety.
Behavioral therapy focus on how behaviors are mediated by rewards, even unconsciously. Although some behaviors do not seem rewarding, they are rewarded by avoidance of an adverse feeling, such as anxiety, fear, or panic. Desensitization therapy is a common approach in behavioral therapy. The goal is small doses of exposure to an anxiety-provoking stimulus will slowly decrease the fear response. Desensitization is used for mental health conditions involving fear, panic, and traumatic experiences.
Since cognition and behavior are often deeply intertwined, many therapists approach both simultaneously. Often there is a feedback system between thought and behavior. For example, negative thinking, such as believing one is unacceptable, will affect behavior. A person who is insecure or believes no one will accept them will alter their behavior to actively avoid people and social situations. The behavior of active avoidance “rewards” the person by reducing anxiety and the possibility of rejection.
The therapist’s goal from a cognitive standpoint is to help the patient realize their negativistic thinking and find ways of changing their thought processes. The patient may be instructed to replace negative internal dialogue with affirmations. From a behavioral standpoint, they may be encouraged to enjoy a social function they would otherwise avoid.
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