Stress is a normal response to a challenging situation, such as a tight deadline or a difficult conversation. When you feel stressed, your body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can prepare you to take action. That is ok if a tiger walks into your room, as it prepares you for the jump out of the window (although we would suggest you contact your office health and safety lead if this has happened to you!).
However, if there is no tiger or if the threat does not require physical action, it is less helpful. And when stress is there for the majority of the time, it can have negative effects on your physical and mental health
How can yawning help with stress?
Not just for the tired, yawning can have the ability to reset your brain and give it the distraction it needs to calm and release.
As we yawn, we tend to take in a lot more oxygen and squeeze the blood vessels going to the brain to give it more nutrients. This tells the brain it is time to relax, releasing beneficial neurotransmitters – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin. Conscious yawning may be a helpful tool for those wishing to practice it as a stress-soothing technique.
Research led by Andrew C. Gallup, associate professor of psychology at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, suggests that yawning has a brain-cooling function in vertebrates, including humans. “Brain temperature rises during times of stress and anxiety,” Gallup said. “And yawning naturally occurs before and during stressful situations, promoting relaxation and better cognitive functioning. It has nothing to do with boredom.”
We pack so much into our days that sometimes we can forget to be mindful of ourselves and our comfort. Before we know it, we can be tense, unhappy – mentally loaded with negativity. The first step toward making a positive change is deciding to do so.