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Changes in lifestyle often accompany chronic illness and sometimes it can even alter the individual’s independence. This can create anxiety , especially when you’re venturing out of the house. Constant questions ensue. Will I get a seat on the train today, or will I have to stand for an hour? How busy is it likely to be? Will I get pushed and shoved? How long am I going to be able to walk around before I burn out? You get the picture. The constant planning that has to go into everything when you have a serious health condition becomes frustrating and can suck the fun out of plans.
A recent study from Harvard showed that when people who adopted powerful postures (open shoulders and straight spines) had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels—but people who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. That translates into low self-confidence and high stress. And sitting slouched over can compound the problem, says Krucoff. “Shallow chest breathing strains the lungs, which must move faster to ensure adequate oxygen flow, and taxes the heart, which is forced to speed up to provide enough blood for oxygen transport. The result is a vicious cycle, where stress prompts shallow breathing, which in turn creates more stress,” she says.
The fix: Krucoff suggests taking everyday cues—a ringing phone, a stoplight—as reminders to take relaxed abdominal breaths to combat stress. Here’s how to make sure you’re breathing deeply: Rest your hand below your belly button; you should feel your belly expand as you inhale. “Invite the air all the way down to the deepest portion of the lungs, where oxygen exchange is most efficient,” says Krucoff. As you exhale, you should feel your belly contract again and stress leave your body.
More from Prevention: 6 Weird Signs You’re Way Too Stressed