In today’s world, we are more aware of stress and anxiety than the generations before us. Our lifestyles are become ever increasingly fast-paced and digital. This creates insurmountable pressure to meet the demands of our hurried style of living, that creates added stress. Stress can also intensify pre-existing health problems such as heart conditions, diabetes, headaches, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, skin conditions, depression, and anxiety. When the body is stressed, the adrenal glands produce more adrenaline and cortisol as a response to the perceived stressor, and to keep your body going. Too much adrenaline and cortisol elevates the body to a high level of constant tension and nervousness; in other words, a constant state of “fight-or-flight”. When our bodies are so highly strung and tired from lack of rest or sleep, we can even experience anxiety or panic attacks.

In order to combat stress, it is important that we take care of our bodies. Besides eating properly and exercising regularly, the best way to avoid stress is by ensuring you get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Think of the human body like a rechargeable battery; when we emit energy from exercising, we must recharge using food and more importantly sleep. Sleep is when the body is able to relax and release any tension accrued throughout the day.

Have you ever been unable to sleep because of stress or worry? Or have you experienced a panic or anxiety attack? The majority of us are chronic “under-breathers”. We don’t inhale a complete breath into our thoracic diaphragm (a muscle just below the lungs, that extends down as we inhale), rather we inhale a shallow breath. Shallow breathing does not allow sufficient oxygen to flow to the brain. In Eastern wellness practices, breathing is of ultimate importance. An old technique, called the 4-7-8 in Western practice will help calm your nerves and fall asleep.

The Technique

1. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4 seconds.
2. Hold your breath in for a count of 7 seconds.
3. Exhale steadily and slowly for a count of 8 seconds.
How It Works

Because stressed and anxious people are usually shallow breathing, their brains do not receive sufficient oxygen. By holding the breath, the lungs are able to absorb larger amounts of oxygen. This in turn provides oxygen to the bloodstream, which can reduce the heart rate and effectively calm the body down.

You may feel a bit lightheaded when you first try it. It is most useful when used while falling asleep. It can help the body release stress and calm down. Some people report being unable to last past the first few sequences of breath before falling asleep. Others say it is the best technique for calming themselves while feeling nervous or experiencing a panic or anxiety attack. And the best part? It’s completely free!

So try it yourself the next time you can’t fall asleep at night, before that big presentation, or if you’re simply feeling uneasy or anxious. You will start to feel better within minutes.