Reduce Stress With These Breathing Techniques
Chronic stress has dire health consequences. If left unmanaged, it can lead to anxiety, weight gain, digestive problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. But the good news is that one of the best ways to manage and reduce stress is free and accessible to us all: breathing.
Breathing exercises or breathwork can heal us in many ways, and its benefits include mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. If you'd like to try breathing exercises, we've compiled a list of techniques below. You can do these exercises anytime and anywhere; no special equipment is needed.
Diaphragmic breathing is precisely what it is—breathing deep using your diaphragm. When stressed or getting into fight or flight mode, our breathing becomes shallower and faster. Doing the opposite can help calm you down.
To start, get comfortable, whether seated, lying down, or standing, and close your eyes. Notice your breath. Are you taking deep, slow breaths or shallow ones? Awareness of how you breathe is beneficial; it can help you become mindful of your body's response to stress.
After observing your breathing for a few seconds, you can alter your breathing. Breathe deeply through your nose. While you inhale, your stomach should expand, not your chest. And when you exhale, contract your abdomen until your lungs are empty. Do this a few more times until you feel your body relaxing.
Alternate nostril breathing
This breathing technique has been practiced for thousands of years as a form of meditative breathing.
To begin, place your thumb over your right nostril as you inhale through your left. On the exhale, release your right nostril and put the finger on your left, breathing only through your right. You can do this technique while diaphragmatic breathing or counting your breath, whichever is comfortable for you. Repeat this exercise for up to five minutes.
Counting your breaths, which entails elongating your inhales and stretching out your exhales, helps with pacing. There are a few ways to do this:
The 4-7-8 breathing is typically recommended for those who need to relax before sleeping, but it can be used anytime you need to calm down. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for seven counts and exhale for a count of eight. You can start with five rounds until you're more comfortable to prolong it as needed.
Another version you can try is called the 5-8 breathing. To start, inhale through your nose for five counts and exhale through your mouth for eight counts. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
Visualization breathing is a mindfulness exercise with many benefits, including releasing muscle tension and relieving pain.
To begin, get into a comfy position and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you inhale, envision all the stress coming from your extremities and into your chest. And as you exhale through your mouth, imagine that ball of tension leaving your body through your breath. Repeat the process.
Deep, cleansing breaths
Release stress from your back and shoulders by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths.
Breathe deeply through your nose, taking as much air as possible. Then release it, focusing on emptying your lungs. Repeat this technique for a few breaths until you feel the tension subside.
Which of these breathing techniques have you tried? And which one is your favorite?