Stress occurs whenever we have to adapt to change. Small amounts of stress are good for us; through adapting successfully to stressful situations, we become stronger and more competent. Excess stress - stress that is beyond our ability to master - can lead us into a cycle of negative emotions such as worry, fear and anxiety. When this continues without relief, it can become a whirlwind of frustration, anger, exhaustion, self-loathing and depression.
A major component of the stress-response system is the autonomic nervous system, which orchestrates the involuntary functions of the body: cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, hormonal, glandular and immune systems. An intricate network carries messages from the brain to the body in order to regulate these functions. At the same time, messages from the body ascend to inform the brain of the moment-to-moment state of every part of the body. If there is anything amiss with our breathing, the brain needs to know quickly to take action immediately. Respiratory messages have top priority when it comes to getting the brain’s attention.
Of all the autonomic functions of the body, only one can be controlled voluntarily - breathing. By voluntarily changing the rate, depth and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body to the brain. Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on brain centers involved in thought, emotion and behavior.
How often do we have to adapt to change? Every day, we have to digest a certain amount of stress. Breathing can alleviate negative feelings such as fear, anxiety, depression, self-blame and physical discomforts. Breath practices nurture positive emotions, loving feelings, compassion, our sense of connection with what is meaningful in life, and our sense of bonding with others.
There are infinite ways to use the breath to enrich every moment of your life.
Adapted from: The Healing Power of the Breath
Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
Dr. Gerbarg explains how stress affects every aspect of our lives, including energy levels. She offers a number of easy solutions.
In this hour-long interview, Pam Atherton and Dr. Patricia Gerbarg discuss a number of health-related topics, including:
Dr. Gerbarg’s background and interest in Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine
Non-traditional ways to handle stress
Stress is a global problem
How stress depletes energy
How breathing practices balance the stress-response system
Melatonin as a sleep aid
How to promote better sleep
Why we should exercise
Role of vitamins and minerals in maintaining energy, reducing risk of dementia, improving depression, and supporting brain health
Supplements that improve the effecs of antidepressant medication
Fibromyalgia - exhausted stress response system
Rhodiola rosea may help in Chronic Fatigue
Rhodiola rosea increases cellular energy production
The difficulty in diagnosing ADD
Complementary treatments for the wide spectrum of biolar disorder
How to Use Herbs, Nutrients & Yoga in Mental Health
Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD. Philip R. Muskin, MD
W.W. Norton & Company 2009
The Healing Power of the Breath
Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD.
Shambala Press, 2012
Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, Petra Illeg, MD, Richard P. Brown, MD,
Rhodiola Rosea in Psychiatric and Medical Practice. In Rhodiola rosea, Ed. Alain Cuerrier and Kwesi Ampong-Nyarko. Series Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times. Series Ed. Roland Hardman. Taylor & Francis Group, New York.
2015, vol 14:225-252.