Breathing To Relieve Stress
In these uncertain times, our breath is a vital tool for helping us relieve stress. With all the commotion, it can be easy to become swept up in the crazy and lose sight of the practical, tangible things that are directly within our control. There is much we can do to ensure we keep a level head and approach each new situation with strength and certainty.
Now more than ever it’s so important to slow down, take a minute to check in and assess. How am I doing? What’s going on in this immediate moment? How can I rise above this?
I want to share with you all these very simple breathing techniques I use every time I feel fearful or anxious. These techniques help calm my nerves and allow me to tackle any problem with a clear head.
Before I discuss my favourite breathing techniques for calming my nerves, I feel it’s important to mention how our breath plays a pivotal role in exacerbating our stress levels in the first place.
At the first sign of stress, instinct tends to kick in and we have a habit of leaning into shallow, rapid breaths. This is the body’s natural response to stress. Breathing in this way causes an imbalance in the intake of oxygen and the dispelling of carbon dioxide. This leads to increased heart rate, dizziness and muscle tension, resulting in compounded anxiety. In some cases, this can even lead to panic attacks. If in a stressful situation, and you feel your breath begin to shallow, it’s important try and catch yourself. You can control your breathing to relieve stress with the following techniques.
The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation or you begin to feel anxious, this simple technique I use always helps me return to centre and relieves my stress.
- Take in deep, measured breaths to the count of four in through the nose, closing your eyes if you choose. Feel your chest rise gently and your abdomen extract. Keep your shoulders squared but relaxed.
- Exhale gently to the count of four out through the mouth, feeling all the air travel through your body, with your chest sinking slightly.
- Repeat this breathing pattern until you begin to feel comfortable again.
This very simple technique can be performed anywhere and can within a couple of minutes subside the waves of anxiety and help refocus your attention. I use this technique every time I need to feel grounded, no matter whether I am out shopping or at home in my own space.
Word association can be a powerful tool for helping ease the mind and reacquisition a situation with new meaning to relieve stress.
For this exercise, I recommend finding a quite space away from other people if you can.
- Find a space where you can sit or lie comfortably and begin to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, closing your eyes if you wish.
- The aim here is not to focus on breath count, but rather the movement of your body.
- Place one hand on your stomach and pay attention to the rise and fall as you draw in and exhale breath.
- Choose a word that describes the state which you are seeking to reach such as ‘safety’, ‘comfort’ or ‘warmth’ and vocalise that word on each exhale, paying particular attention to each syllable as you do so.
- Repeat for several minutes.
The repetition of your safe word will help bring the mind to absolute focus, allowing your body to normalise its breathing patterns and alleviate your stress.
There are many wonderful resources out there for stress and anxiety relief, but my absolute favourite is guided meditation. If you have the time and space to be quite by yourself, plug in a pair of headphones and allow yourself to drift away momentarily. Guided meditations provide a powerful means for interrupting the patterns of our ceaseless minds by giving us a new focus.
For guided mediations, I recommend downloading Headspace or Calm, both of which have a library of meditations to choose from, ranging in length and complexity for instant peace of mind and to relive stress.
Stress is a natural, albeit troublesome, part of life. With the current goings-on of the world, we all need to take a few minutes each day to ourselves and practice mindfulness and calm and breath is a powerful tool for helping us relieve stress. I would love to hear how you go with these breathing techniques and if you have any breathing techniques of your own that help you deal with stress, I would love to hear them.
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