We all have those moments of stress and anxiety, it’s completely normal. Whether you had a tough day at work or a big exam to prepare for, sometimes feeling anxious and stressed is unavoidable. But, in these moments it’s important to not let our anxiety get the best of us. There are a lot of different things you can do to relieve stress but sometimes some deep breathing exercises are exactly what we need to relax ourselves
Here are 5 breathing exercises to try when you feel stressed:
1. Belly breathing
You can do this breathing exercise both laying down or sitting upright in a chair. Start by putting one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. The point of this is to really feel your heart rate slowing down and to feel your belly expanding with each breath.
Slowly breathe in through your nose, you should feel your diaphragm expanding when you do this. Next, breathe out through your mouth, letting your belly relax. Repeat this as many times as necessary. Belly breathing may feel funny at first because we are so used to breathing with our chest, but when you slow down and breathe through your belly, you begin to pay more attention to your breath and how it relaxes you.
2. 4-7-8 breath
This breathing exercise is used as a moment of pause. 4-7-8 breathing will help slow down your nervous system. If something stressful happens to you, do this breathing exercise before you react. It will give you a moment to slow down your mind and body and think clearly. To start, sit up straight with both of your feet on the floor, place your tongue on the tissue behind your front teeth and keep it there for the remainder of the exercise.
Now begin by exhaling completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of 4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for 8 seconds. Repeat this three more times.
3. Breath counting
Now, this breathing exercise is deceiving because while it seems really simple, you just count each exhale, it can be really hard to stay focused on the counting pattern. The point of this practice is to focus solely on your breath and your counting and to not let your mind wander. So, this exercise takes a lot of focus, but by focusing on the counting, you aren’t focusing on other stresses in your life.
To begin, sit upright with your feet on the floor, you can keep your eyes closed or half closed. The point of this exercise is to take deep breaths and count each exhalation up to 5, then return to 1. For example, Inhale….exhale. That’s 1. Inhale…exhale. That’s 2. Once you get to 5, then start over again. It’s very easy to get lost in the exercise and end up at 25 exhales. To be successful at this exercise you must pay attention to your counting.
4. Body scan
If you have had a long day at work or you are having trouble sleeping, the body scan is a great way to unwind from your day and promote physical relaxation. The purpose of this exercise is to simultaneously breathe and acknowledge each part of your body and the sensations that you are feeling in each body part.
To start, take deep breaths in and out. Do this at least three times. Then, start with your toes, imagine that you are breathing from the very tip of your toes all the way through the top of your head. Acknowledge how your toes feel. Next, move to your legs, calves and knees. As you breathe, pay attention to any feelings you have in your legs. Maybe there is tension in your legs. Take a few continuous deep breaths until you feel totally relaxed in that area. Move up through your stomach and chest area, pay close attention to how your breath makes your stomach expand and shrink. Pay attention to your heart rate and how it is slowing down. Keep taking long deep breathes. Next, move to your shoulders, arms and fingers. Imagine your breath is reaching the very tips of your fingers. Acknowledge the tension you may hold in your shoulders and try to release that tension by breathing. As you exhale, tension should be leaving your body. Lastly, bring attention to your head, neck, face and jaw. Release the tension you hold in your neck. Pay attention to how these parts of your body feel. To finish up this exercise, quickly scan through your body one last time. Wiggle your toes and fingers, stretch out those legs, roll your shoulders and neck, begin returning to your normal breathing.
5. Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is used to balance both the left and right sides of your brain. This breathing exercise is also beneficial if you need to revitalize your tired mind or reduce stress and anxiety.
To begin, sit upright in a comfortable position. Take your right thumb and place it over your right nostril, closing it. Then inhale slowly through the left nostril. Pause. Then, close your left nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril. Now that your right nostril is open, inhale through it, then pause, cover your right nostril and exhale through your left. Repeat this five to 10 times and then ease back into your normal breathing pattern.