Breath-work is becoming the common denominator in dealing with stress in sport as well as the workplace
Not only does stress, fear and anxiety cause fast, upper chest and irregular breathing that feeds into Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD), but in turn, BPD feeds back into Anxiety, Stress and Panic Disorder (1). In simple terms BPD can be seen simply as over-breathing sending agitation signals to the brain. These signals trigger the fight or flight response and in turn cause brain fog, slow decision making and panic.
For optimum high performance, we need to control this response. Taking a deep breath however does not mean a big breath but rather a slow, calm breath into the diaphragm bringing a sense of relaxation into the body and mind. Therefore simply slowing our breathing for a few minutes, can mean the difference between making a good or bad decision.
Athletes succumbing to anxiety and stress, which is a contributing factor to increased muscular tension and fatigue as well as decreased coordination and balance, are susceptible to injury. By addressing over-breathing many of these conditions can be prevented.
Our chemo-sensitivity to Carbon Dioxide (CO2) controls our rate of breathing. A slow deep breath into the belly, raises CO2 levels in our blood conditioning our brains to deal with a higher level of CO2. Nasal Nitric Oxide (NO) is also harnessed through this process increasing the blood flow throughout the body and together with CO2 delivers Oxygen(O2) rich blood to the brain.
In Patrick McKeown’s Podcast he talks about the role of breathing in anxiety, slowing down the breath in stressful situations and overcoming the fear of public speaking. (3)
In Carrie Cheadle’s article she explains how reducing stress can avoid injury. (2) This is not your common mindset around injury prevention and well worth reading.