Stress Reduction through Breathing

Stress reduction can happen quickly.  Using breathing is a simple yet extremely effective way to slow down one’s breathing when feeling anxious and stressed. This technique is used by singers, windpipe musician and yoga practitioners to relax themselves and reduce any stressful or anxious sensations.

The basics: 

  • When we feel stressed and/or anxious, the way we breathe changes. Typically, our breath becomes quicker, shallower, shorter, and sometimes we hyperventilate (over-breathe).
  • Over-breathing can actually make you feel more stressed and more anxious, due to an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing is not only extremely effective, it is extremely portable. You can use this tool whenever you need it, anytime and anyplace, even in the presence of other people.
  • There’s a catch, you’ve got to practice.

Like any other stress and anxiety management tool, you’ve got to practice it to learn how to use it well. The idea with all these tools is not to avoid stress and anxiety, but rather to learn how to “ride out the feeling”.

Practice Tip:

Start learning and practicing this tool when you are not feeling any stress or anxiety.  Learning how to use this tool, getting comfortable and confident breathing this way when you don’t need it, will serve you well when you really do need it! Like any new skill, practicing it will help you develop it quickly and instil confidence in the tool, and in yourself.

Stress Reduction: Basic Technique

Calm breathing involved taking smooth, slow and regular breaths. Rather than lying down or slouching, sit upright. This upright position helps increase your lung capacity, allowing them to fill with air more fully. Also, using arm rests helps support your arms, taking the weight off your shoulders.

  • Take a slow deep breath in through your nose, breathing into your lower belly for about 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for about 4 seconds.
  • Wait 2 seconds before breathing in again.
  • Repeat.

You will feel a decrease in stress and anxiety rather quickly. Typically, one can go through about 6 or 8 breathing cycles per minute, but find your own comfortable rhythm. The increase in oxygen helps soothe your body physically, and thus dissipates anxious and stressful feelings.

Lastly, try to practice at least 5 minutes a day, twice a day, and you don’t need to feel stressed or anxious to practice.  The more you practice, the sooner you will be able to use this tool effectively when you really do need it.