We’ve all heard the stuff about stress and health. I for one find the whole thing more stressful than healing. The fact is I just don’t do all those right things that the stress gurus propose – it just takes too much energy and time.

But here is something that is very useful and effective when it comes to stress-relievers:


Now. I don’t mean to sound silly – breathing is what we do all the time, consistently and sustainably otherwise we’d be dead! But that is not the breathing that I am referring to nor proposing we re-examine.

What I am referring to is using air to deal with stress.

Now there is some science behind this.

Let me try and explain.

When a stressful event occurs the body reverts to a reptilian response. It accesses a deep-seated basic protective instinct called the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. The result is a squirting of a variety of chemicals into the bloodstream one of which is a poisonous hormone called cortisol.

For those of you that enjoy the detail, herewith:

“Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones. When used as a medication, it is known as hydrocortisone. It is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. Wikipedia

Formula: C21H30O5

Molar mass: 362.47 g/mol

CAS ID: 50-23-7

ChemSpider ID: 5551

ChEBI ID: 17650

PubChem CID: 5754″

Enough of that!

But here’s the thing: Cortisol ‘spoils’ quite quickly once it has served it purposes (immediate physical ‘flight’ stimulation) and leaves a rather unpleasant side effect. The result is a poisonous effect on one’s sense of well-being. Left unattended, the consequences can be pretty un-nerving (excuse the pun).

Deep breathing has shown to be very effective in neutralising the effects of Cortisol. Copious gulps of air settles the brain and allows for the stress to curl back.

Remember, the ‘fight or flight’ modality leaves you with only two choices: attack or run. Hence, on this state, you lose your intellectual ability. Your conscious choice is disarmed!

This plays out in various ways in the workplace:

  1. Driven behaviour: Have you ever sat in a meeting and become so flustered because everyone else is participating and you’re sitting there like a pumpkin? So, you blurt out a silly remark simply because you are too stressed to think clearly. Disaster!
  2. Flipping your lid: Losing your temper and over-reacting are clear signs of reptilian dominance. This always leads to crushing feelings of guilt and regret (unless you are a narcissist!).
  3. Slinking off: An urgent and impulsive need to disengage is another consequence of stress – the ‘flight’ mode. The negative part is that opportunities to connect are lost and others might brand as aloof or arrogant.
  4. Approval seeking: Probably the most destructive effect of stress is the compulsive ‘people pleasing’ drama that emerges. This usually plays out with authority figures will reject this manipulation and leave you feeling even more disempowered.
  5. Passive-aggressive behaviour: Feelings of anxiety usually lead to unreal negative perceptions around your own self-worth. This can manifest in a number of ways but often comes through as a tight passive aggressive stance. Of course, this only creates more disconnection which leaves you feeling vulnerable.

These few consequences arise largely because you have cortisol pumping through your system. Neutralise this toxic chemical and your natural spontaneous self is more likely to emerge. Deep breathing helps a lot.

Try it – you might be pleasantly surprised.

In summary, what is being postulated here is that you can have better control over your default behaviours if deep-breathe in a stressful situation. This because Cortisol, the chemical that fires off the reptilian brain, gushes into the bloodstream and prevents you from thinking clearly. Breathing neutralises Cortisol and allows for a more ‘spontaneous you’ response.