Learning to breathe: An important stress-relieving technique

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Calm and steady breathing is an important stress-relieving technique, but it needs to be learned before the stress hits in order to be successful.

Co-coordinator of the Stress Management and Biofeedback Services Barbara Morrell spends all semester helping a steady flow of students learn stress-relieving techniques in the Biofeedback Services office on the first floor of the Wilkinson Student Center.

“When students learn those skills, they can calm down no matter how stressed they get,” Morrell said.

Biofeedback Services uses several tools to help students learn to de-stress. Most of the services they provide are also available on their website. However, games used to teach calm breathing can only be accessed at Biofeedback Services.

"Dual Drive" is a racing game that helps players learn to control their breathing while doing other things. (Photo courtesy of Counseling and Psychological Services)
“Dual Drive” is a racing game that helps players learn to control their breathing while doing other things. (Photo courtesy of Counseling and Psychological Services)

These games monitor the player’s breathing to accomplish goals. One game requires the player to breath steadily to stack rocks. If breathing does not remain calm, the rocks will fly across the screen. As breathing remains steady and calm, the rocks will fall into a stack.

Another game, called “Dual Drive,” is a racing game that monitors breathing to fuel a car. As breathing remains calm, the car will run properly, allowing the player to win the race. This game helps players learn to remain calm while doing other things.

The body responds to overwhelming situations with stress as a warning system. According to Morrell, this response does not adapt to school and can have negative effects on academic outcomes.

“The stress response makes it harder to study,” Morrell said.

Since stress is part of the fight-or-flight response, the body does not handle prolonged stress well. Being stressed for long periods of time leads to breakdowns in the body, which can eventually lead to chronic diseases, according to Dr. Jonathan Cox, a psychologist at BYU’s counseling and psychological services.

“If (stress) is prolonged, then that can prevent the body from healing and rebuilding itself,” Cox said. “It’s especially prevalent to get sick after the stress is over.”

While breathing is one of the most helpful calming techniques, it is not the only one. Other techniques include meditating, having a support network, talking to people and having fun.

“There are a number of ways to deal with stress, but if you can use a number of different techniques, that’s the best,” Cox said.

While stress is often unexpected, levels of stress can be kept at a lower level by living a healthy life style, according to Cox. This includes getting appropriate nutrition and enough sleep and exercise.

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