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    Breathing for Relaxation

    Mental Health Clinic at Naval Health Clinic Hawaii Makalapa

    Photo By Macy Hinds | The Mental Health Clinic for Naval Health Clinic Hawaii is located adjacent to the...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Naval Health Clinic Hawaii

    This week is “Mental Illness Awareness Week” and as your new staff psychiatrist I am excited to provide everyone with some information about a problem that everyone deals with: STRESS. Stress is a feeling of physical or emotional tension. Often, stress is beneficial: it can be a potent motivator that encourages you to study for the next advancement exam, or during PRT season stress may drive you to increase your physical activity and improve your diet. Unfortunately stress can sometimes get out of control.

    Most people have heard of the “fight or flight response”. This is an innate and primitive capability of our nervous system to respond to danger. If you think about it, it makes sense to increase your heart rate and blood pressure to help you run away from a bear chasing you in the woods. But feeling anxious and nervous or having a racing heart beat and sweaty palms just when you are trying to go to the mall or attend a social gathering…not so much. Those are symptoms of anxiety.

    There is good news: there are numerous techniques that can help to manage stress that has gotten out of control and I would like to share one with you: breathing exercises.

    While we may not be able to directly control how fast our heart rate is, or how nervous we are getting, we CAN control how we breathe. Focused and mindful breathing can help to reduce anxiety and stress. An example of one simple technique that I have heard even Navy SEALs use is called “box breathing”. The sequence is four steps long and the rhythm is in four second intervals which is easy to remember if you just think of a box having four walls. It can be done in just a few minutes and you may start to notice a sense of calming even after a few breathes. Give it a try:

    1. Inhale for 4 seconds.

    2. Hold the air in your lungs for 4 seconds.

    3. Exhale over 4 seconds, fully clearing the air from your lungs.

    4. Hold your lungs empty for 4 seconds.

    5. Repeat.

    An alternative to this method that one of my supervisors has suggested is 4-4-6-2 breathing; he calls it “combat breathing”. In this case you would perform steps 1 and 2 as above, but exhale slowly over 6 seconds and hold out for 2 seconds. The key here is the prolonged exhale which will help to prevent hyperventilation. Either breathing technique may be used when you are already feeling stressed or perhaps before you encounter a situation that you think may provoke distress. They may also be tried at bedtime if you are having trouble falling asleep.

    There are numerous resources out there regarding various relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. The Department of Defense has developed a mobile app for breathing called “Breath2Relax”. It is available for download to your phone. “Military Meditation Coach” is a podcast produced by the Defense Health Agency with many episodes on breathing exercises and much more. Both of these resources are free so please feel free to try them out.

    I hope that you find this information useful. If you have any questions regarding breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques please feel free to contact me. Most important, if you or a shipmate are experiencing a crisis please know that there are resources to help you out. During Mental Illness Awareness Week, and always, please remember the Navy’s suicide prevention training: Ask-Care-Treat (ACT).

    -Lieutenant Commander Ryan Vienna, M.D., U.S. Navy



    Date Taken: 10.07.2019
    Date Posted: 10.07.2019 18:21
    Story ID: 346467

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