How resonance breathing increases HRV and improves stress resilience

Train your nervous system to smoothly "switch gears” between performing and relaxing.

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Tung Nguyen Thanh
How resonance breathing increases HRV and improves stress resilience



Learning to switch gears

Whether you want to become more resilient to stress, be calm in challenging situations, or be more in control of your emotions, mastering self-regulation will help you. Depending on the current situation you are in, your body requires a different level of physiological activation. Self-regulation is your body's ability to recognise physiological and emotional states and adjust them to fit the needs of the current situation, like performing at your peak during competition or unwinding for sleep at the end of the day.

You can think of it as your nervous system's ability to smoothly "switch gears".

This kind of self-regulation happens on a physiological level and does not depend on your conscious control in the moment.

Use breathing to manage your fight-or-flight response

Your breath is one of the few places where your autonomic nervous system meets your somatic nervous system, also called the voluntary nervous system. Breathing is involuntary, but you can also control it. By controlling your breath, you can learn consciously change the state of your autonomic nervous system.

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Heart Rate Variability(HRV) is a metric allowing us to measure physiological and psychological stress.

Because your HRV is influenced by the activity of the autonomic nervous system, we can use it as a feedback tool in the learning process toward better self-regulation and increased resilience.

The autonomic nervous system is subdivided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response.‍

The sympathetic nervous system drives your physiological activation and is responsible for the increased energy level that you experience when you face a challenging or stressful situation.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for regulating the activation of the sympathetic branch. It "puts on the brakes" once sympathetic activation has reached the desired level. When the parasympathetic nervous system is not strong enough to lower sympathetic activation appropriately, your ability to self-regulate suffers.‍

This is where heart rate variability comes in. HRV is an indicator of the parasympathetic nervous system's ability to lower sympathetic activation. Increasing your HRV with regular resonance breathing strengthens the parasympathetic brake and your ability to self-regulate.

References

  • Khazan, I. (2019). Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life: Practical Solutions for Improving Your Health and Performance (1st edition). W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Shaffer, F., & Ginsberg, J. P. (2017). An Overview of Heart Rate Variability Metrics and Norms. Frontiers in Public Health, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00258
  • Yerkes, R. M. & Dodson, J. D.: The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation.Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18 (1908) 459–482

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