Overwhelm might begin in your head, but once your body’s released stress hormones, telling yourself to relax is futile, as a physiological chain reaction perpetuates stress. The exhalation component of deep breathing is thought to activate the body’s primary pacifying nerve, the vagus nerve, unlike shallow breathing, which disables the vagus nerve, effectively perpetuating the stress response.
Try this to relieve stress
Sit or lie in a quiet place and observe your breath as you take one normal breath and one slow, deep one.
Let the air travelling via your nose filter into your lower abdomen, allowing it to expand fully. Breathe out through your mouth. Alternate normal and deep breaths several times, noticing how you feel with each.
Place a hand on your tum (it should rise and fall a few centimetres as you breathe) and repeat for about 10 minutes.
Adapted from ‘Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing and Reducing Stress’.