Raise your hand if you’ve ever turned to food in response to stress? (Both hands in the air over here!) I want to show you how to reduce stress in less than 2 minutes.
Learning to manage stress is a critical skill when your goal is fat loss or improved health for both physiological & emotional reasons.
Most obviously, we’re far more prone to justifying less-than-stellar food choices when we’re stressed. Think about it: making a food choice when you’re in an awesome mood & feeling calm and capable produces a much different result than making a food choice when you’re overwhelmed and stressed.
The more we can naturally reduce our stress, the better our food choices will be.
The second part is based on physiology: mental & emotional stress trigger a surge of stress hormones, especially cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol impairs fat burning. The more we can naturally manage stress, the more we improve our fat burning potential.
Now, I know you can’t sell your kids (or can you?), quit your job and move to an island. Certain stressors can’t be removed but we can absolutely improve our response to them and, in doing so, lower cortisol.
Here’s the best part: not all stress reduction techniques require lots of time, money or mental muscle. In fact, there’s a super simple technique that works incredibly fast. It’s called Box Breathing & I’ve shared it with my Fat Loss Fast Track clients and they found it super effective.
I first heard about Box Breathing when I read The Way of the Seal by former Navy Seal Mark Divine.
It’s really simple and you can do it for 2 minutes or 20 minutes. The longer you do it, the greater the benefit. I started one of my Fat Loss Fast Track webinars with box breathing for just 60 seconds and people were commenting, “Oh my goodness I feel so much better!”
First let me tell you what it is & then I’ll share why it’s so effective.
- Sit in a comfortable, upright position without slouching.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to 4 as you inhale (the “through your nose” part is really important!)
- After you’ve inhaled, hold the breath in for a 4 count.
- Exhale, slow & controlled, for a 4 count
- Hold it for a 4 count before inhaling again through your nose
Many times when we’re stressed and feeling overwhelmed, our breathing becomes rushed & shallow. When we slow down long enough to focus on deep, controlled breaths, we naturally bring our attention to our breathing and that decreases the attention directed towards the things that have us feeling stressed out.
As I tell my clients all the time, stress & anxiety are caused by a case of “too much future & not enough present”. Our attention is directed towards something (or somethings) beyond what is happening right now.
When we can quiet our minds and bring our attention to right now (and to the breath), we feel much more calm and in control. Being calm & in control leads to far better food choices than when we are stressed and out of control.
Plus, controlled breathing exercises have been shown to decrease cortisol (one of our primary stress hormones).
Some of you might be wondering why it matters that you breathe in through your nose as opposed to your mouth. When you breathe in through your nose, you take in more oxygen than when you breathe in through your mouth.
Plus, your body manufactures more nitric oxide, a vasodilator, when you breathe in through your nose. This improves blood flow which supports energy, metabolism and fuel delivery throughout the body.
Breathing through your nose lowers your heart rate more than breathing through your mouth, which is a great way to help lower your stress levels & calm yourself down.
Breathing through your nose pushes more oxygen into the lower lobes of your lungs (mouth breathing fills primarily the upper lobes). Within the lower lobes are receptors for your parasympathetic nervous system. When we stimulate these receptors, via breathing through the nose, the body produces more of these calming & relaxing chemicals.
How To Reduce Stress
To start out, I want you to put your phone in airplane mode to prevent distractions, set the timer for 2 minutes & practice box breathing through your nose for two minutes.
Over time, I’d love for you to work up to 6-10 minutes or more. Keep in mind that in moments of feeling overwhelmed, you can do box breathing for whatever time you have, even if it’s 30 seconds. You can practice box breathing while you drive, while you sit in a stressful meeting or when trying to fall asleep at night.
It’s really simple. You’re going to sit in a comfortable position and breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 4. You’ll hold that breath (before exhaling) to a count of 4. You’ll slowly exhale to a four count and then you’ll hold your breath for a 4 count before beginning again.
Give it a try for a minimum of 2 minutes & let me know what you think!