Stress affects all of us in many ways and could even be affecting your health. If you have been stressed out for a short period of time you may start to experience physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, and irritability. Experiencing stress long term can lead to high blood pressure, weight changes, skin problems, and heartburn. Stress can cause major issues in your everyday life, but stress can be reduced by doing breathing exercises daily. We are going to share with you a few breathing exercises you can do to feel calm and relaxed.
1. Lengthening Your Exhale
- Focusing on inhaling can sometimes do the opposite of calming you down and may lead to hyperventilation. Try focusing on lengthening your exhale which is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. Here are a few tips to help you lengthen and focus on your exhale:
- Try pushing all the air out of your lungs before taking a deep breath.
- After taking a few breaths and really focusing on your exhale, try exhaling longer than you inhale. So maybe inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 or you could inhale for 2 seconds and exhale for 4. Do whichever time works best for your body just make sure you are exhaling longer than you inhale.
- Try doing this for several minutes and you can do this in any comfortable position. You could sit, stand, or even lie down.
2. Practice Belly Breathing
- Practicing “belly breathing” or diaphragmatic breathing can reduce stress and regulate emotions. It can also improve lung function, cognitive function, and lower blood pressure. Here is a step-by-step guide to practice belly breathing:
- Find a comfortable place to lie down on a flat surface, this could be on a bed or on the floor.
- You want to make sure that your knees are bent, and your head is supported, you could use pillows to add additional support.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Try closing your eyes, it isn’t necessary, but it helps you focus on your breathing and is great for increased relaxation.
- Take a few deep breaths and notice if your belly is rising and falling with each breath. If your chest is moving and your belly is staying still, try adjusting your breath and only allow your belly to rise and fall as you breathe.
- Continue to take deep breaths and do this as long as you like. You can practice belly breathing each day, it will become easier, and you will feel more relaxed each time you do it.
3. Mindfulness Breathing
- Practicing a couple of minutes of mindfulness breathing each day can help you feel calm and relaxed by eliminating distractions, releasing negative thoughts, and increasing self-awareness. Here is a simple meditation exercise to practice mindfulness breathing:
- Find a comfortable place to sit, and bring attention to your surroundings in the present moment.
- Do a body scan and check in with your body, notice any areas of tightness or tension and allow your body to fully relax.
- Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath, you don’t need to change anything about your breathing, just notice it and bring your attention to it. Your mind will start to wander but try to stay focused on your breathing.
- Sit here for a couple of minutes and notice your body relaxing more and more after sitting in silence and focusing on your breath. You don’t have to do this for a long time but practicing for a few minutes every day will be beneficial.
When life gets stressful it is so important that we take care of ourselves and listen to our bodies. Practicing any of these three breathing exercises will help you relax and feel calm from the stressors in our everyday lives. Try doing a breathing exercise for a few minutes today to see the results that it can bring!