The Power of Breath

Midlife women are often pulled in many directions.  Balancing your personal relationship, work, children, aging parents and a social life is a delicate act. If that is not enough, women are burdened  with the hormonal changes that occur in perimenopause and menopause.

Everyone at some point or another experiences stress. Long term stress can have negative health effects on a woman’s body. You may develop high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or other illnesses . Stress has been linked to anxiety and depression, both of which increase in the perimenopause/menopause transition.  Medical research has even proven stress causes grey hair!

Learning to manage stress is important for your wellbeing both physically and mentally. Getting regular exercise and making lists to stay organized are just two simple suggestions. Breathing exercises can also be beneficial to help bring calm to your mind.

Two popular techniques are the box breathing method and the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Both exercises can be done anywhere.  They allow you to recenter yourself, improve concentration and enter a state of calm. Breathing techniques force your mind and body to focus on your breath rather on your racing thoughts or stress.

Box Breathing Technique

Developed as a Navy Seal tactic to help trigger relaxation in tense situations. Begin by sitting with your back supported, eyes closed.

  1. Breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold your breath while slowly counting to 4
  3. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you feel calm.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this breathing technique is based on an ancient yoga technique.  Sit with your back supported or lying down. Make sure your eyes are closed.  Rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth behind your top front teeth. Keep your tongue in place throughout the breathing exercise.

In the cycle of one breath:

  1. Let your lips part. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing sound.
  2. Close your lips, inhale silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Exhale from your mouth for 8 seconds making a whooshing sound.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you feel calm.

Whatever breathing techniques you discover works best for you, your goal should be to practice breathing daily. Once you are comfortable with the techniques, using them to find your calm in a stressful situation will become second nature.

Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Dr Barbra Hanna, a board-certified OB/GYN and Menopause Society Certified Practitioner has 25+ years experience in women's health. She founded MyMenopauseRx to fill the void in menopause healthcare.