A Simple Tool For Better Diabetes and Life Management

Managing type 1 or 2 diabetes can be stressful, and chronic tension not only elevates glucose levels, it can generate anxiety, depression, and add to our difficulties with sleep.

An effective way to counter stress and calm our nerves is to practice simple breathing exercises. Controlled breathing can quickly soothe (or energize) the body because our autonomic nervous system is a two-way street.

The same pathway our brain uses to send “I’m stressed” messages to the body can be used by the body to send “I’m calm” signals to the brain. We can create those “I’m calm” signals with controlled breathing techniques, such as 4-7-8 Breathing, also called the Relaxing Breath.

4-7-8 Breathing

The beauty of 4-7-8 Breathing is its simplicity, and brevity. Anyone who can count and breathe can learn this technique, use it anywhere, and doing it takes little time. It functions as a natural tranquilizer, and though the effects are subtle at first, repetition and practice increases the technique’s calming power.

While 4-7-8 Breathing can be done in any position, it’s recommended people sit with their back straight while learning it:

  1. Put the tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind the upper front teeth, and keep your tongue there throughout the exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a soft whoosh sound.
  3. Close your mouth, and inhale quietly through the nose to a mental count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth - making the whoosh sound - to a count of eight. This completes one breath cycle.
  6. Repeat the breath cycle (steps 3, 4, and 5) three more times, for a total of four complete breaths.

Make sure the tip of the tongue remains in position; if this feels awkward while exhaling through the mouth, pursing the lips slightly may help. Beginners may experience some lightheadedness, but this will pass with practice.

Although 4-7-8 Breathing cannot be done too often, no more than four breath cycles at one time are recommended during the first month of practice. Later, if desired, one session can include up to eight breath cycles. Do 4-7-8 Breathing at least twice per day for good results.

Keep the Ratio

When using 4-7-8 Breathing, keep a steady count so that the exhalation is always twice as long as the inhalation. The total time spent doing the exercise is unimportant, but keeping the ratio of 4:7:8 is essential. If keeping a steady rhythm is difficult, imagine a clock steadily ticking off seconds as you count.

For those who have trouble holding their breath, it’s okay to speed up the exercise, but always maintain the 4:7:8 ratio. With regular practice, most people can slow their count, inhaling and exhaling more deeply.

Once this technique is learned we can use it periodically throughout the day to relax mind and body, making it a valuable tool for diabetes management, and for enhancing our overall sense of well-being.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky, conscious breathing is my anchor.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping Into Freedom

Sources: Dr Weil; Feathered Pipe

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