One Minute for August 2021 Two Ways to Lower Stress


Breathwork and knitting are excellent ways of relieving stress and calming yourself. Among the benefits of these activities are lowering blood pressure, relaxing your mind and body, reaping the rewards of deep breathing, lowering anxiety and depression, and other health benefits.

In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson, MD, did research on the Relaxation Response (and wrote a book by that title). He demonstrated how the relaxation response was often triggered by breathing in specific ways while focusing on a word or phrase, repeated over and over. (An example might be saying the word “Jesus” or “Lord” while doing your special breathing.)

Harvard Medical School has also demonstrated the benefits of special breathing. In her July blog, a therapist colleague of mine, Judith Westerfield, M.A., MFT, describes one of these ways of breathing called “square breathing”. To practice square breathing begin breathing normally. Then inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Make sure your belly expands as you inhale and constricts as you exhale. This is diaphragmic breathing because you are using your diaphragm! Take a moment to think about each cycle of breath. On your next cycle begin square breathing:

1. Inhale through your nose for a count of four (1,2, 3, 4)

2. Hold your breath for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

3. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

4. Pause and hold for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

5. Repeat

Practice square breathing at your desk, on a walk, in the shower, in a traffic jam, or anywhere.

Knitting is also a great way to channel anxiety and depression and other stressors. An Olympic athlete told the news media that he knits all the time to keep his blood pressure low and helps him focus so as not to be distracted by troubling thoughts. He made a beautiful cardigan sweater that he wore to Tokyo. My younger brother who is a Lutheran minister found this to be an excellent thing to do to lower his stress and help himself focus better in his pastoral ministry.

I know several pastors who knit prayer shawls that they give to parishioners who are ill.

Knitting is just one of the many ways God has wired us for repetitive actions that calm our spirits and improve our health.

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One Minute is written by Pastor Ron Rehrer, MFT, Counselor for Church Workers.

E-mail at ron@ronrehrer.com. Phone 949.433.5182