Stress and Fear and Deep Breathing

Did you know there is a connection between stress and fear?

Stress and Fear and Deep Breathing

I must say that I’d never made the correlation between stress and fear.

Although, I have been aware that research continues to show that stress is the basis or a significant factor in nearly all diseases and illnesses. I wouldn’t be the first person to report feeling stressed, and then coming down with a cold…a perfect opportunity to rest the body, sleep, and indulge in self-care. After a few days of this, the cold seems to magically cure itself.

So, while I was aware of the role of stress in health, it never occurred to me that there was a connection between stress and fear. That was, until I was listening to a guided meditation by Louise Hay.

In her Subliminal Mastery Series audiobook, Stress Free: Peaceful Affirmations to Relieve Anxiety and Help You Relax (1990), Louise Hay clearly states:

Stress is a fear reaction to life, and to life’s constant changes. Stress has become a catch word, and we use it as an excuse for not taking responsibility for our feelings. If we can equate the word stress with the word fear, then we can begin to eliminate the need for fear in our life. A peaceful relaxed person is neither frightened nor stressed.

When I heard that, I had to keep rewinding to hear it again:

Stress is a fear reaction to life?

Stress…an excuse for not taking responsibility for our feelings!?!

– Equate the word stress with the word fear, then we begin to eliminate the need for fear!?!

Being a 20 year old recording, this is clearly not new news, even though it clearly was for me. Had you heard this before? Were you aware of the connection between stress and fear?

In the audio, Louise goes on to ask…

Why are we afraid? Why do we give our power away? How can we eliminate that fear, and move through life feeling safe? We can do this by changing our thinking.

Changing our thinking (affirmations, of course, with the help of meditation and visualization!) …AND… changing our breathing.

You read that right: Breathing.

Oh, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Last year, I had read a blog post by Susan Eller about how our body is designed to release 70% of toxins through our breathing! That still astonishes me.

Then, earlier this year, I had seen a tweet by @JaqStone reminding us all to take frequent breaks for deep breaths. I did, and it felt so good, I made a decision to breath deeply 3 times throughout the day as I transitioned from one  activity to another. Within that first day, I noticed some huge benefits!

– I felt better and seemed to have more energy
– My day seemed to flow easier
Solutions to problems seemed to appear all by themselves

PLUS

– I found that my fear-based thoughts seemed to EVAPORATE as I breathed in more oxygen!

Seriously. Just try it for yourself: See how long you can actually hold onto to fear while you are deeply breathing. If you are like me, fear just *poof* dissipates!

Yes, I realize all of the above examples include the word *seemed*…all of our experience is about perception. Deep breathing was causing a shift in my perception and therefore, my experience.

Anyway, shortly after my AHAs about the power of deep breathing, which I tweeted about profusely, I read a response on GVU by Jeannette Maw to a forum post asking about fear. Jeannette wrote:

I’m thinking fear is excitement without breath

That statement really made an impact on me, based on my recent experience with breathing deeply, and it has come back to my mind time and again…and a Google search indicates the quote (fear is excitement without breath) originated from Robert Heller in the 19th Century. Although I had never heard this quote before, either (I know…where have I BEEN?!?), it is a simple reminder that deep breathing is beneficial, most especially when we feel fear: relaxes our muscles and mind, while helping us calm down, think clearer, and recognize the joy of excitement.

I’m also thinking about how some of my favorite energy tools (Emotional Freedom Technique/Meridian Tapping, Non-Personal Awareness, meditation, etc.) and exercise (aerobic, yoga/pilates, etc.) all incorporate deep breathing as part of the technique. After just focusing on deep breathing throughout the day, I’m wondering if the increase in oxygen and therefore the reduction of fear-thoughts is a big part of why we feel so good after doing these techniques or activities?!?

Let’s recap what we’ve uncovered here:

Stress is a fear response, and it’s the root cause of many illnesses and diseases…

And fear, a component in stress, is dissipated by deep breathing, then by deduction, stress must also be reduced by deep breathing.

That would mean that most illnesses and diseases (caused by stress) can be positively affected by regular, conscious, deep breathing!

Deep breathing is the body’s way of releasing 70% of toxins.

Simple enough for everyone to do—keep breathing, but do it a little deeper each time—and something that any deliberate creator would want to add to their conscious life experience!

Fear only exists when you do not understand that
you have the power to project thought and that the Universe will respond.

~
Abraham, Boca Raton, FL 1/11/97

What do you think about this? Has this been your experience? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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22 thoughts on “Stress and Fear and Deep Breathing

  1. Wow, Nancy, this is such a dynamite post. Love it!

    I first tuned into breathing for health and stress reduction back in the early 90’s when counseling people. I was just guided to do that and to suggest it to my clients when they were either experiencing stressful states or needing to integrate/assimilate new insights and information. I had not read about it anywhere. It was just something I was guided to do and teach.

    This led me to explore the benefits of breathing further. I bought a book by Gay Hendricks, titled “Conscious Breathing”. It was quite comprehensive and showed how deep, conscious breathing could benefit all kinds of conditions. That is where I learned that our body is designed to release 70% of toxins through our breathing!

    I noticed that when I breathed deeply it would release tension and pain. I was more able to assimilate life experiences. Also, anytime there was a stressful, fearful situation, I stopped what I was doing or thinking, took a slow, deep breath in to my belly, and then say to myself. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Everything is okay.” This always helped to calm me.

    Thinking about this topic more, I realized that I had really heard about breathing for health back in the 70’s when I began a Yoga practice. Although I never did the strange looking breathing practices from India, I was aware of them.

    Also, I was aware of other therapeutic breathing practices such as Holotropic Breathwork, and the work of Wilhelm Reich.

    I think this is a very, important topic and that more people need to be aware of the need for deep breathing. I mean how more natural can you get? Every time you find yourself feeling stress, fear, tension etc, stop and take some slow deep breaths. Or integrate breathing techniques into your daily practice.

    Come to think of it Dr Andie Weil has a good breathing method. He is a big advocate of conscious breathing.

    By the way that Louise Hay CD sounds great. I may have to get it.

    Thanks again for another wonderful post.

    Blessings,
    Susan
    .-= Susan Eller´s last blog ..Three Ways to Nurture and Sustain a Love Relationship =-.

    • Hi, Susan,

      Thank you for writing the blog post about breathing!

      I agree with your comment:

      I think this is a very, important topic and that more people need to be aware of the need for deep breathing. I mean how more natural can you get? Every time you find yourself feeling stress, fear, tension etc, stop and take some slow deep breaths. Or integrate breathing techniques into your daily practice.

      Even if you are perfectly healthy, getting into the *habit* of deep breathing can keep you healthy! And if you are not healthy today, developing the habit now will surely have positive affects.

      Reminds me of Abe’s comment that if they were in our shoes, they would practice breathing deeper and deeper until we expand our lung capacity and naturally breath deep and slow.

      Thanks for the inspiration, Susan!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

      PS I also did a Holotropic Breath Workshop with Stan Grof, but I don’t remember health benefits being mentioned…only psychological ones.

  2. Nancy…this is so valuable to share. Thank you. I actually first gave thought to “breathing” when my mother was on her death bed at age 49 …during our last conversation she said “Remember to breathe deeply”. At the time, I really didn’t know what to make of it…she was dying of lung cancer so I thought it was related to her struggle to breath. Many years later, I suffered anxiety/panic attacks for about a year…my doctor sent me to therapy, put me on medication…ran tests, the whole nine yards. And then one day I decided enough was enough. (I am not one for putting chemicals in my body) I remembered my mother’s words… INSTANT relief!!

    I began to research breathing and learned how deep breathing actually releases healing chemicals that have the same effect as valium/xanax etc. (I won’t go in to all the medical explanations) I felt as though I had regained my freedom to live without fear because I knew I had the tools within me. I have passed this on to my daughter and grandson who have ADD/ADHD to use when they need to regain focus or just settle their minds down…In fact, as part of our routine to start the day, we all take a moment and do some deep breathing exercises…the kids call it “waking up our cells”!
    Blessings~denny

    • Denny, what an amazing story…your mother was tapping into something important! Amazing…thank you for sharing that!

      I love your comment…

      I have passed this on to my daughter and grandson who have ADD/ADHD to use when they need to regain focus or just settle their minds down…In fact, as part of our routine to start the day, we all take a moment and do some deep breathing exercises…the kids call it “waking up our cells”!

      Perfect use of deep breathing! I hope some mothers reading this will consider teaching their kids to breathe deeper.

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  3. Wonderful article, Nancy! I have used breathing as a tool for consciousness and dealing with stress since I first did holotropic breathing workshops in the ’70s. It’s one of the first things I teach my clients since it’s such an organically powerful and easily accessible modality. Thanks for bringing together the research and compelling reasons to use the breath to de-stress in this great article. Warmly, Jan

    • Jan, so great to see you here on my blog!

      Looks like you, Susan Eller and I have all done Holotropic Breathwork. When Stan held the workshop, he talked about psychological issues, but I don’t recall the benefits of deep breathing (to the extent I am referring) ever being mentioned.

      I’m so glad there are people like you who have been teaching this to your clients. So simple, and yet so often ignored!!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  4. Wow! I love this Nancy. Fear is excitement without breath. That is so true…. for example whenever we get stage fright it’s because we’re breathing ‘in’ more than we are breathing ‘out’… hence shallow breathing and then fainting!! Ok, I’m off to amazon now to get that tape.

    • Hey, Lin…LOL, yeah, more air in than out…can you spell *hyperventilation*?!? It’s also amps up anxiety, which might have gotten the ball rolling to begin with . Vicious cycle!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  5. Nancy, I just heard the same thing about fear and excitement, but with a slightly different connotation. A dear friend just told me that fear and excitement are physiologically identical – except for breath rate. She said that when we’re excited, we breathe more slowly, but when we’re in fear, we breathe very quickly. I add to that that when I get into the fear place, I stop breathing altogether for a bit, which I must say isn’t all that comfortable.

    I just came out of a sweet meditation during which I was breathing to my heart and feeling into the Divine, and I feel more at peace and love-filled than I have all day. Then, I came upon your blog post, all about the nourishing qualities of breath… So perfect.
    .-= Harmony Harrison´s last blog ..Intuition Wins the Financial Decision Game! =-.

  6. Great summary Nancy!
    Yes, I became aware of the Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome when learning about HypnoBirthing, which is why I went on to become a Practitioner and now hypnotherapist. So many illnesses are a result of our inability to relax nowadays. The drip-drip-drip of fear and stress builds up in the bucket until your body can’t contain it any more, and it has to overflow somewhere.

    I still use the breathing techniques I learnt on the course to help me. Breathing in and out through the nose is important as it slows you down and makes best use of the oxygen throughout your body. It’s a great technique for lowering your blood pressure (while you’re in the waiting room for an appointment!) and preventing full-blown panic attacks.

    On the physiological side, a relaxed person has the right balance of endorphins vs catecholamines, By breathing to relax when in a fearful situation, you can reduce the catecholamine overload & bring on the natural happy-pill endorphins 🙂

    • Hi, Caz,

      I was definitely aware of fear-tension-pain connection, but NOT the stress-fear connection. I do love that doctors are finally acknowledging this piece:

      So many illnesses are a result of our inability to relax nowadays. The drip-drip-drip of fear and stress builds up in the bucket until your body can’t contain it any more, and it has to overflow somewhere.

      Dr. Maxwell Maltz began writing about the importance of relaxing the mind in the 50s, mostly from the standpoint of making better decisions, but he also noted that relaxed patients healed faster. So in addition to dissolving fear and stress, deep breathing also helps us think clearer so we make better decisions. Abraham would say we’ve shifted our vibration and then are lining ourselves up with better-feeling solutions.

      I love what a rich and amazing topic this is! Thank you for stopping by, and I love your new site!!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  7. What a great article and a reminder to me to B-R-E-A-T-H-E! I’m going to practice deep breathing throughout my day now and celebrate the results! And it doesn’t surprise me that this concept about fear and stress from Louise Hay was “new” to you: happens to me all the time. Isn’t it great to find these discoveries? I appreciate your work, Nancy–always inspiring!
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..A Work in Progress =-.

    • Barbara, thanks for stopping by and sharing your kind words!

      Yes, isn’t it interesting how and *when* information comes to us?!? Certainly, my mother always guided me to deep-breath (or at least remember to do so), but it’s only now that I understand why it’s so important!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  8. Another great post Nancy – and that quote is awesome!!! “Fear is excitement without breath” – so thanks for sharing. I’ve also heard that Fear is the opposite of Love btw – another beautiful perspective :0)

    Big Hugs

    J

    • Joel, I love that quote, too…and there are so many analogies for fear: Fear is the absence of love, Fear is False Expectations Appearing Real, etc. I wonder if any of these analogies really help people let it go? Maybe for the moment or as long as one can remember that energy is *not personal*, right?!? 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Many blessings,
      Nancy

  9. Hi Nancy,

    How have I missed this for so long?? LOL.

    I first used breathing to eliminate huge-elephant-on-my-chest anxiety over 15 years ago, but this reminder was perfect for me to hear again right now. And thank you for the other wonderful things about breathing I’ve learned here too.

    I’m really resonating with the reframe of stress as fear. I’ve heard others speak of stress as something you couldn’t bottle and therefore didn’t exist, but that wasn’t a relief point for me. Thinking of stress simply as fear makes it more manageable to me. I may have heard this before but this truly hit home.

    Thanks. JLAC

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