“Just breathe!” Two words with a lot of meaning, especially If you are feeling stressed or overcommitted. As a caregiver, do you remember when you didn’t feel stress or overcommitted? Taking deep breaths has more value for your life and mental health than we may realize.

Benefits of Deep and Mindful Breathing

I discovered that there are many things I don’t know about my body as a caregiver. As you may know by now, there is a lot of balancing of schedules, diets, medications, and family time. All of your efforts become centered around your loved one’s needs, but what about yours? The last thing we need is another added responsibility. So we ignore our needs.

You have heard of the “fight or flight” response. You may have considered those possibilities yourself. That response is part of our sympathetic nervous system, but we also have a parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes us, calms us, says internist and neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, MD. Nina Smiley, Ph.D., suggests an exercise that can help you get even more from your inhales and exhales. Consider talking to yourself as you breathe in and out. As you breathe in, you may want to say, “One moment at a time.” As you exhale, you could say, “I feel more refreshed.” Or “I can do this.” Whatever helps you.

Taking a few deep breaths can give you a break you crave. Being mindful of your breathing takes your mind off the moment’s stress, if even for a short while.

Deep breathing can lower your blood pressure. Breathing through your nose raises your level of nitric oxide, a gas made in the nasal passages known for lowering blood pressure and increases your ability to use oxygen. Who knew? Nitric oxide is an essential player in maintaining healthy cardiovascular and immune systems. (The Essential Guide to Caregiving, Centennial Health 9/10/18 )

Intentional deep breathing can improve your overall health. Oxygen strengthens your muscles and reduces cramps.

When we are stressed, we tighten up, and as a result, we tend to breathe from the upper portion of our core rather than the lower portion. Our breaths become quick and shallow, and our shoulders slump.

How should we breathe? Try for one minute, taking deep, slow breaths through your nose, filling your lungs with air, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Do this five times a day to increase your energy and overall health. A good breathing app. (free) is BREATHE2RELAX, for iPhone or android