Frantic schedules. Daily exhaustion. Commitment and caring for family, friends, coworkers, students, patients, community members. As women age and enter the cycles of perimenopause and menopause, it is not likely that the daily stresses of life will decrease. In fact, as many women are moving into their late 40s, 50s and 60s, the pressures often only increase, be those social, health-related, or financial. Many studies in the last decade have shown how increased levels of stress affect the health of the body.
When the immune system is constantly over-activated, in that perpetually heightened state of flight or fight, it may lead to autoimmune disease. An elevated state of stress correlates with inflamed cytokines. Cytokines are chemicals released by the immune system that give orders to armies of cells to attack viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and cancer cells. But when the body is continually giving orders to attack because it’s reacting to stress levels, that heightened state can have many negative outcomes.
Combatting Emotional Highs and Lows
When it comes to protecting the body against one of its own worst enemies- itself—lifestyle changes are important. Studies have shown that women in the menopausal transition can have an increased risk of major depressive disorder (MDD). Estrogen therapies, like all-natural Effisoy, antidepressant medications, and other remedies can assist the body in regulation. There are also daily practices that can be utilized to maintain balance in the body and to avoid some of those heightened cycles of stress.
Nowadays, most folks know that meditation and deep breathing are beneficial not only for the mind but also for the body. A study from Johns Hopkins University found that in 47 trials, mindful meditation helped ease psychological stresses, including pain, anxiety, and depression. The role of breathing is crucial in meditation. There are many types of meditations, from guided to individual sessions. And yet, many still wonder whether focusing on breathing is actually sufficient to alter moods. Does how we breathe really affect change and reduce stress levels?
It’s All in the Breath
Studies show that most people don’t breathe in a way that gives the body enough oxygen. When breathing shallowly, that stagnant air, its residue and pollutants can get caught in the lungs, sometimes leading to more labored breathing as well as toxic buildup. In comparison, deep breathing moves oxygen through the blood and cells. Breathing is, of course, a natural process, but by adding an extra dose of intentionality, you can make your breathing that much more powerful, potent, and healthy.
This exercise can help release some of the tension in a heated moment. Exhaling, that deep sigh or breath, comes naturally as the body needs to release stress. That deep, intentional exhale triggers a relaxation response in the brain. This exercise can be done anywhere, in just a few minutes, and can help calm the mind and relax that overactive autoimmune response.
- Take a comfortable seat, wherever you are, in your car or on a chair or the ground.
- Close your eyes, embodying alertness yet comfort.
- Slowly elongate your breath—deeply breathe in, and deeply let it seep out.
- As your breathing slows, extend the exhale to twice the time of your inhale. If you breathe in for 3 seconds, try to breathe out for 6 seconds.
- Create a pattern of this imbalanced breathing, focusing more on the breath out. Do this for 5 minutes, or for as long as you can.
- Before finishing this exercise, pause. Take a few more intentional deep breaths before opening your eyes, and then come back into the present.