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Ideas

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INHALE, EXHALE

Breathing exercises for a very stressful Election Day, in gifs

By Georgia Frances King

A lot of Americans are feeling some anxiety this Election Day. If you need help staying calm as the world waits for election results, one of the best things you can do is take a deep breath.

If you’re feeling flustered and short-of-breath, you may be experiencing what is known as “fight or flight” mode. This primal state of being kicks in when we’re in a life or death situation. But it can also be provoked by other triggers, including tense election cycles. When our bodies are operating in this stress-response mode, it increases our blood pressure, reduces the efficiency of our immune system, and leads to heightened states of anxiety and depression.

In order to counter this response, scientists at Harvard Medical School (among many, many others) have recommended taking a few good, deep breaths. When you’re breathing shallowly—a common side effect of the fight or flight stress response—you’re limiting your diaphragm’s range of motion and not allowing the lower lungs to get their fair share of oxygenated air. This is what makes us feel agitated and anxious.

But by beginning to take slower, deeper breaths, we unlock a whole (treasure) chest full of benefits. When you fill your lungs with air, it allows more oxygen to enter your lungs, which helps aid healthy bodily functions. This in turn lowers your heart rate, stabilizes your blood pressure, and, through making you more aware of the present, calms your mind.

So if you’re feeling a little agitated today, try pacing your breathing with some of these soothing gifs to help bring your blood pressure down and your mood up.

Feeling better now? Everything is going to be okay. (We hope.)