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Have you ever felt stressed? If you are human then you can probably answer “yes” to this question. Stress is the mind’s natural response to change or adversity in life. I am sure we can all relate to that tense feeling in the body when something doesn’t go the way we planned. Earlier today, I spent 15 minutes writing a message and accidentally exited the chat box without saving or copying my work. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs. In the back of my mind I knew that I could just rewrite the message and no harm done. But, it is almost impossible to stop that stress response after it starts. Fortunately, there are a few ways to control the way you respond to stress. In this article, I will give a brief overview of a few deep breathing exercises for stress. Hopefully they will help you remain calm the next time you are faced with a tough situation.

What Is Stress?

Believe it or not, this reaction is an extension of our animal brain. As humans have developed through evolution, we have acquired a part of our brain that is triggered when it is time to fight a predator or run away. This reaction was very useful in prehistoric times when we were forced to protect ourselves. However, in today’s society, the fight or flight response is triggered even though there is not an immediate threat. This forces us to use a part of our brain that is not helpful in everyday circumstances. When overused, this mechanism that we call stress is often even harmful.

Now, I am not saying that all stress is bad. When we are faced with a deadline at the office, stress is typically just the thing we need to meet that deadline. Unfortunately, when stress gets out of our control, it causes damage to the body which is not limited to heart problems, depression, and anxiety. Please see the link below for more details on the symptoms of stress.

https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body

How Do We Manage Stress?

Therefore, it is important that you manage stress so that it does not take over your life.  Fortunately, you can manage your stress levels. All it takes it a little bit of discipline and oxygen. Yes, I said oxygen. Breathing/meditation is an effective way to reduce stress and can even aid in the management of depression and anxiety. Please see the article below which sites a study done by Johns Hopkins University. The study found that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.

So, stress is a normal part of life that we all experience but there is a solution. That solution is deep breathing. I am not saying that all your worries will instantly melt away if you sit down and meditate for 10 minutes. However, If you set aside 10 minutes each day to do one of these breathing exercises for stress, you might start to feel less tense after a few months. 

Breathing Exercises for Stress Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash
Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Counting Your Breaths

One of the greatest breathing exercises for stress is counting your breaths. This is just as simple as it sounds. Start by sitting in a comfortable position. Whether that is cross legged on the floor or seated in a chair, it doesn’t matter as long as you are sitting. Be sure not to lay down as this will tell your mind that you are preparing for sleep. Also, it helps if you can designate a quiet space for your breathing each day.

Once you have found your space, close your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths. Focus on the inhale and then exhale. Begin counting your breaths. Start from one and go to ten. One breath equals a full inhale and then exhale. Once you reach ten, go back to one and start over. Don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders during this process. Unless you are a naturally focused person, you will find that thoughts tend to creep in and interrupt your awareness of the breath. When this happens, gently bring yourself back to counting your breaths. 

Why Count Your Breaths?

This deep breathing exercise will, with practice, teach you to find balance in your breath. As you do this more and more, you will start to notice things about your breath that you didn’t before. Everyone’s experience will be different but, overall, it is safe to say that this exercise will change your response to stressful situations. It will teach you to come back to your breath when faced with trying thoughts. Unlike many breathing exercises for stress, this one is something you can do in public without looking too unusual. Though it won’t be as easy to focus on your breathing, it also works well if you do it with your eyes open. This way, you won’t get too many curious glances from people who have wondered whether or not you have fallen asleep.

Box Breathing Exercises for Stress

Box breathing is another one of the great breathing exercises for stress. Athletes commonly use this technique to improve performance. Not only is it a useful way to focus on your breath but it can actually help to improve your lung capacity and make you feel more awake. 

A box breathing sequence is unusual in that it includes holding your breath. Start by finding that comfortable space. Sit in your designated breathing position. Now, take a deep breath slowly. Try to make your inhale last for 4 seconds. As you get closer to 4, you may find that it is harder to inhale. This slight strain can help to increase your lung capacity. Next, instead of immediately exhaling, hold your breath for 4 seconds. Finally, exhale for the same amount of time that you inhaled, 4 seconds. If at any point you feel light headed or uncomfortable, stop the sequence and take a break. You can also modify the sequence to make the segments shorter or longer per your personal preference. See the video below for a guided box breathing sequence. 

Why Should You Do Box Breathing Exercises for Stress?

Box breathing is especially useful during times when you need to calm yourself down. It is a great breathing exercise for stress. Again, I always recommend finding a quiet place to do these exercises but if you are ever having a stressful day and need something that will calm you down, box breathing might be a perfect solution. 

Pranayama Single Nostril Breathing Exercises for Stress

Another great breathing exercise for stress comes from yoga. It is called Pranayama Single Nostril Breathing. Pranayama is a Holistic lifestyle that focuses on regulating life energy in the body. Single Nostril breathing is a part of the Pranayama daily practice and is meant to regulate breathing. 

Start by sitting in your meditative position. Close your eyes and raise your hand in front of your nose. Plug your right nostril and breath in for 4 seconds through your left nostril. At the end of your inhale, plug both of your nostrils and hold this breath for 4 seconds. After the 4 seconds is complete, unplug your right nostril and exhale through it. Next, hold both nostrils closed again and hold the breath for another 4 seconds. Repeat this sequence 10 times. After 10 sequences is complete, reverse the sequence by first inhaling through your right nostril. Do this 10 times. Once you finish both nostrils, take a moment in your meditative position to enjoy the feeling of balance. See the video below for a guided single nostril breathing sequence.

Why Do Single Nostril Breathing?

Pranayama breathing is something that should be practiced everyday with discipline to feel the full effects. Ultimately, the goal of Pranayama is to live a healthy balanced life and prevent disease. This breathing sequence is one of the many ways for you to take control of your body’s life energy.  

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a very simple breathing exercise for stress. This is a technique that I recommend using in public places as it does not look too unusual. Start by inhaling slowly through your nose for 5-7 seconds. Next, when you exhale, purse your lips to prevent the air from escaping too quickly. Repeat this cycle 10 times to relieve daily stress.

Why do Pursed Lip Breathing

Many breathing techniques aim to slow down your breathing. This method is effective at stress relief because your body gravitates toward short fast breaths when you are stressed. Since stress is the body’s natural response to a threat, your body wants to fuel your muscles and help you fight or flee a dangerous situation more quickly. By lengthening and deepening your breaths, you remind your body that you are not in a dangerous situation and there is no need to panic.

Conclusion

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. For this reason, it is important that you manage your stress levels. Otherwise, stress can start to affect your mental and physical health. I hope this article has helped introduce you to a few breathing exercises for stress management. There are many other breathing techniques that can have the same effect. Leave a comment below if you would like for me to write another post about more breathing techniques.  

References