If you've ever been in a situation where someone told you to "just breathe," then you might already understand how deep breathing can help you alleviate stress. It might be hard to believe that something as simple as breathing can help melt your troubles away, but with the right breathing techniques for stress it can make all the difference.
The Benefits of Breathing
According to Harvard Medical School, when you undergo stressful situations in your daily life, it can illicit a reaction in your body like the "fight or flight" response that you feel when you face danger. While that instinct can be helpful in certain situations, when it happens as a response to daily stress it can negatively affect your health. High blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression, and anxiety can all come as a result of stress.
However, relaxation response, a technique developed by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, can help reverse those symptoms of stress. Relaxation response is about finding a way to bring your body and mind to a restful state. The methods include things like yoga and meditation, but at the heart of it all is deep breathing. Unlike the regular breaths you take every day, deep breathing allows for a more complete exchange of oxygen, which can lower blood pressure and slow your heart rate, and ultimately helps you feel calm and relaxed.
Deep Breathing Techniques for Stress
Start by developing your basic deep breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose and then exhale slowly, either through your mouth or nose, whichever feels more comfortable. It can help to place your hand on your belly or chest to feel the rise and expansion as air fills your lungs and abdomen. Once you have established this way of breathing, you can apply it to more specific exercises. Here are a few techniques to help you get started:
This is a great technique for beginners. It works really well to help train your focus and to calm you down when you're dealing with a high-stress situation. You can do this one seated or lying down. Inhale as you silently count to four. Hold your breath as you count again, this time to seven. Then exhale as you count to eight. The long count on the exhale helps to slow your breathing and heart rate.
Full Body Relaxation
This is a great exercise for those days when you just can't shake it all off in order to get to sleep. You'll need to lie down for this one, so you can do it when you get into bed for the night. Lie down with your eyes closed and arms at your sides. As you inhale and exhale, focus on a specific section of your body starting with your toes and working your way all the way up to your head. On each exhale try to get the muscles you are focused on to let go and fully relax.
Living in Los Angeles means I spend a lot of time dealing with stress on the road. This is one of my favorite calming techniques to deal with a challenging commute. When you come to a stop at a red light, use the light as your focal point and take three or four deep breaths, depending on how much time you have until the light turns green. It's a short exercise, but it's always enough to remove some of the tension of a long drive and practice mindfulness at the same time.
Starting a Routine
Don't wait until stress takes over to start practicing these deep breathing exercises. Creating a daily routine of deep breathing can help you minimize stress before it begins. It can also ensure that when a really stressful situation occurs, the tools that you need to help you deal with it are already second nature.
Choose a time of day and a quiet place where you can spend ten to twenty minutes practicing deep breathing techniques. You can sit or lie down, as long as you are free of distractions. Finding a point in the room to focus on can also help. Repeating the techniques daily at the same time will quickly establish a routine.
Breathing might seem too simple to make any change, but it can be a very powerful tool. Even kids can benefit from its use. Try it yourself and you'll be surprised what a difference it makes.
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Why It’s Good
Everyday stress can affect your health in the long run. It can sometimes feel like you can't escape it, but something as simple as breathing techniques for stress can help you relax without a lot of effort.