Measure your wellbeing with one breathing tool
Have you ever asked yourself the simple question - Am I on the right path in life? If yes, here's one well proven Freediving tool that might help you find out, namely the Carbon Dioxide exhale discard rate test.
Let's start with the fun part- How do I do the test?
Preferably, start by sitting down in a relaxed position - not like a strict yogi! Instead, imagine yourself being more like a cool monkey with hanging and relaxed arms and your head slightly forward-tilted in order to get properly relaxed.
If you have been running around just before then take 3-5 minutes just catching your breath and to lower your heart rate a bit.
For the next step, do two cycles where you inhale fully and then exhale. The final exhale should be done through your nose, as slow and controlled as possible, i.e., full nasal inhale with your belly around 5-10 s, full exhale around 5-10 s, full nasal inhale around 5-10 s and then start the slow controlled nasal exhale emptying your lungs.
The point is not to hold your breath in the exhale state, but to exhale as slowly as possible using your diaphragm. The slower you are, the better you are at managing stress and Carbon Dioxide-build up at the moment.
0 - 20 s indicates high stress level and low Carbon Dioxide capacity
20 - 40 s indicates moderate stress level and moderate Carbon Dioxide capacity
40 s and more indicates low stress level and high Carbon Dioxide capacity
What does this mean?
The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) exhale discard test indicates how well you can control your diaphragm (our major respiratory muscle) using the phrenic nerve (see our blog about the phrenic and vagus nerves)
CO2 is produced when we metabolise oxygen. This means that the more physical and psychological work and stress you're exposed to, the more oxygen you consume which results in a higher lever of CO2 in your muscles, blood and lungs.
CO2 is then used by your brain and body to measure the amount the stress you are under at a specific moment. This happens in order to adapt and regulate your breathing accordingly, i.e. inhaling Oxygen and exhaling CO2.
What this means in real life is that by doing this test - just slowly exhaling air-, you get an indication of how your nervous system is coping with your internal and external states.
If you are pursuing your internal goals in a hospitable environment, your nervous system is often well balanced. On the other hand, if you are running for your life or pursuing unreachable goals that society or someone else told you to achieve in an inhospitable environment, your nervous system will be just as unbalanced as the rest of your being.
This test has nothing to do with your level of fitness. However, if you try to exhale slowly and controlled after running sprints you will most likely get a low rate. Not because you're not fit, but because your system is just stressed out - physically stressed at the least. So, a better way to do the test is in a similar state and condition every time, such as regularly in the morning or in the evening where you can obtain your own benchmark or baseline.
If your respiratory rates/ length of your intervals are getting shorter, it's likely indicating an imbalance in your life where your nervous system needs to recover.
How do I cope with physical and psychological stress?
In very simplified terms - our nervous system does not differ between physical and psychological stress or threats. This means that physical stress such as running, whether it’s escaping from a lion or just to look better naked, might cause the same stress as having too much to do at work. From a psychological perspective, your pushy boss could be the lion that your nerves want to run away from.
A problem in today's society is that everyone knows that you have to recover after a work-out run, but not everyone realise that the need for recovery from a psychological "run" is just as important.
One way to cool down your nervous system, going from a sympathetic (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode, is triangle or box breathing (see our blog about breathing for recovery)
Taking time to recover both from physical as well as psychological stress is vital in order not just to stay healthy, but also to prevent external and internal injuries and damage ranging from alzheimer (brain burn) to laceration (skin burn).
The Carbon Dioxide exhale discard rate test enables you to measure your current wellbeing by getting "a number" on your stress level and Carbon Dioxide capacity. A short exhale capacity indicates high stress-levels and a need to change your lifestyle or current mode, and a long exhale indicates low stress-levels and a life in balance.
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