The medical definition of stress refers to a factor that leads to bodily or mental tension. There is a wide complexity surrounding the relationship between stress and other illnesses. Factors contributing to susceptibility to stress include and are not limited to genetic vulnerability, style of coping, and personality. However, it is important to note that short-term, unlike long-term stress, has positive effects of boosting a person’s immune system, whereas long-term stresses cause diseases. Therefore, learning relaxation techniques and healthy stress coping mechanisms is beneficial to both mental and physical health. As such, diaphragmatic breathing, meditation as well as imagery, and visualization are discussed as effective techniques for relaxation.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of breath, which is natural and engages lower abdomen expansion instead of chest and throat engagement. In yoga, this type of breath is referred to as pranayama and represents the life force and energy. This effect is achieved by two factors, such as a decrease of sympathetic drive and heart vibrations. When breathing through the chest, the chest wall expands and creates additional pressure on the thoracic cavity. In diaphragmatic breathing, this pressure is taken off, hence decreasing muscular contraction and sympathetic drive. As a result, parasympathetic drives are able to achieve homeostasis (Seaward, 2017). Secondly, diaphragmatic breathing reduces vibration in the heart by introducing pauses and lengthening the breath to four to six breath cycles per minute. The decrease in the resonance and reverberation has a calming effect on the human psyche.
There are three steps necessary to acquire the technique of diaphragmatic breathing. The first step is in achieving a comfortable, relaxed position. Sitting or lying on the back without any movement-restrictive clothes is considered the best position (Seaward, 2017). The second step is focused concentration – a person should bring awareness to the process of breathing, the expansion of abdominal muscles, the relaxation of the chest muscles. Focus can be challenging because of interruptive thoughts, which should be managed by letting them go as one breathes out. Concentrating on the sound of inhales and exhales also contributes to improved concentration. Finally, the third step is visualization and imagery that help to improve the efficiency of diaphragmatic breathing (Seaward, 2017). Visualization techniques could be practiced by performing exercises such as breathing clouds, alternate nostril breathing, or energy breathing.
Meditation is one of the common ways millions of people around the world use to either promote their health or worship their gods. While individuals around the world use meditation today, it was previously a way of worship for Buddhists in Asia. The practice is pursued as one of the means of awakening or liberation. This practice involves numerous techniques, including loving-kindness and compassion, developing a luminous and alert mind, mindfulness, and reflections on repulsiveness. All of these techniques have been known to promote supramundane powers, tranquility, concentration, mindfulness, and equanimity. By meditating, a person can achieve a more relaxed state and relieve the tension and the stress, which can result in adverse effects in the long term.
Imagery allows a person to concentrate on the practice more and translate the idea of breathing techniques to the body more precisely. In addition, the effect of the practice can be more persuasive. For example, in the breathing cycle exercise, a person should visualize the exhaled air as polluted black air, which contains all the stress accumulated in the body. By the end of the exercise, a person should imagine air getting clearer and clearer. Finally, visualization allows for a more efficient body and mind coordination, which can be improved with practice, hence, allowing diaphragmatic breathing to be more.
Seaward, B. L. (2017). Managing Stress, Ninth Edition (9th Edition). Jones & Bartlett Learning. Web.