Ease Stress with Deep Breathing
Try these simple deep-breathing techniques to help ease stress and fight feelings of panic.
We’re all familiar with the concept of taking a deep breath when we need to calm down. This works whether we are frightened, over-excited, angry or nervous. Deep breathing ensures that the maximum possible amount of oxygen enters our lungs, clearing our heads and giving us time to think. Slowing the number of breaths we take per minute also helps to slow our heartbeat, making us less anxious.
By controlling our breathing we can control our physical and mental state, calming the body and removing the stresses that have built up during the day. The simple exercises shown below can be performed anywhere – even on the bus on a busy journey home – to provide instant relaxation.
Breathing slowly through your nose using one nostril at a time, will help you learn to control your breathing.
Relaxing Benefits of Deep Breathing
Place your hands on your abdomen with fingertips touching. As you breathe deeply your fingers will move apart.
Scenting your room with fragrances, from scented candles or an oil vaporiser, can help induce relaxation while you practice deep breathing.
- Cleanses and strengthens
Breathing deeply helps to expel toxins from the lungs and bloodstream that might be adding to stress levels.
- Improves gas exchange
Speeds up the rate of exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Expels stale air
Breathing out for twice as long as you breathe in expels stale air from the lungs.
- Encourages peacefulness
Deep breathing calms the heart rate, mind and spirit.
Deep Breathing Step-by-Step
You can perform this simple exercise at home, at work, or even on the move. By controlling your breathing, this exercise helps calm your nerves and promotes relaxation.
Before you begin the deep-breathing exercise, make sure you are sitting or standing comfortably with your back straight. The straighter your spine, the more direct is the path from your nose to your lungs, allowing air to enter and leave as easily as possible. To sit up as straight as possible, try to imagine being pulled upwards by a string attached to the top of your head.
Remember not to let your shoulders slump forwards but to keep them relaxed rather than tensed. You may also find it more comfortable if you put a small cushion under your buttocks.
Performing 10 repetitions of this breathing exercise every day can help to improve your general levels of relaxation. It can particularly help to ease asthma and other ongoing respiratory conditions. It should not be attempted, however, if an asthma attack is actually in progress.
- Hand position – Fold your middle and index fingers back in towards the centre of your palm, keeping your thumb, ring finger and little finger extended.
- Raise hand – Raise you hand to your nose, and position it so that you are able to use your thumb to close off one nostril, and your fingers to close off the other, without having to move your wrist to do so.
- Exhale left – Close your eyes and use your thumb to close off your right nostril. You are now ready to exhale out of your left nostril for a count of eight.
- Inhale left – Keeping your right nostril closed, inhale through your left nostril for a count of four.
- Retain – Keeping your thumb over your right nostril, use your ring finger to close off your left nostril. Hold your breath as you count to sixteen.
- Exhale right – Move your thumb away from your right nostril and exhale as you count to eight. Let the inhalation happen naturally – don’t try to force it.
- Inhale right – Keeping you left nostril closed, inhale through your right nostril for a count of four.
- Retain – Use your thumb to close off your right nostril once more and hold your breath again for another count of sixteen.
- Exhale left – Keep your thumb over your right nostril. Move your finger from your left one and exhale for the count of eight.
- And again – Steps 4-10 constitute one ‘round’ of the breathing exercise. Repeat at least 10 times to feel the full benefits.
- Breathe normally – At the end of the breathing exercise, keep your eyes closed and take a few deep, normal breaths until you feel completely calm and relaxed.