7 Deep Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

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Marleny Hucks
Marleny Huckshttp://MyrtleBeachSC.com
Marlene (or Marleny as she is known in Spanish) is a mentor, teacher, cross-cultural trainer, storyteller, writer, and for those who have been under her leadership or simply sat across the table from her, she is a mirror of destiny. Her love of word and image were formed early on by one of her heroes, Dr. Seuss. If you asked those who know her well, they would describe her a compassionate, funny, wise, curious, honest, real, strong, sensitive and totally human which comes out as she teaches and writes. She sees all of life, even the most mundane, through faith and believes that who we become as we live this side of the veil is what matters not the journey itself or our circumstances. Marleny Hucks has spent her life crossing bridges. She comes from a diverse background of ministry roles and contexts as well as has transitioned in and out of the business world. Having lived outside the country as well as traveled extensively she has a fascination with culture causes her to live her life within a global mosaic no matter where her feet are planted. Marlene currently lives in South Carolina with her husband David, who owns a news company but who she says is a “crime fighter”, bringing light into darkness in their systems of their city. Marleny currently works as a content management specialist covering Myrtle Beach News for MyrtleBeachSC News.

Deep breathing exercises can help you get rid of stress and anxiety. It’s easy to do, even in the middle of an anxiety attack or stressful day at work. It also costs nothing, requires no special training, and is one of the most effective relaxation techniques.

Deep breathing helps you calm down by helping your nervous system return to its natural state. It does this by bypassing your brain’s “thinking” pathways that cause you to respond emotionally and heading right into your nervous system’s “rest and digest” response. This slows down your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles, and calms you down physically.

Read on for some health and wellness tips involving breathing exercises that anyone can easily incorporate into their day!

1: Equal breathing 

Equal breathing, also known as Sama Vritti in yoga, is a simple and effective method to balance the breath. Counting while you breathe can help take your mind off stressful thoughts. Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Keep both hands there throughout the exercise.
  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, feeling the air move into your belly so that it rises. If this feels unnatural, try breathing into more of your chest than you usually would – your belly will naturally rise anyway.
  • Breathe out through pursed lips for 4 seconds, pushing out as much air as possible while contracting the abdominal muscles.
  • There should be no pause between inhales and exhales – the pace should be constant throughout; 2–4 seconds for each inhale and exhale.

2: 4-7-8 breathing (or relaxing breath)

This breathing technique has a few more steps than some of the others we’ll discuss. So, here’s how to do it:

  • First, exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, until you can’t exhale any further.
  • Inhale quietly through your nose, with your mouth closed, counting to 4 in your head as you do so.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
  • This is one breath cycle; repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths (inhalation to 4, hold 7, exhalation to 8).

Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can vary the length of each component and try different ratios until it feels natural for you – and yields results.

3: Alternate nostril breathing

This breathing exercise is a great tool to use when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. You can also practice this technique to calm down before going to bed. This technique is also called nadi shodhana, and it’s a very effective form of stress relief. To do it, you’ll need a chair that you can sit on comfortably, like an office chair, for example.

You’ll want to use your right hand to close off your right nostril and then breathe in through the left one. Then switch and close off the left nostril with your right hand while exhaling through the right one.

4: Abdominal breathing

Here’s how to do this breathing exercise:

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose for two seconds.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and let them fall inward as you breathe out through pursed lips (as if you were blowing out a candle) for two seconds.

The goal is to breathe so that the hand on your stomach rises and falls while the one on your chest remains as still as possible.

5: Box breathing

You’ll often see box breathing referred to as square breathing because you’re creating a square with your breath. And what do squares have that circles don’t? Four corners! Here’s how it works:

  • Begin by inhaling for four seconds, then holding your breath for four seconds.
  • Then, exhale for four seconds and hold your breath again for four seconds.
  • Repeat this pattern several times in a row until you feel more relaxed.

6: Breath counting

If you’re feeling stressed out, why not try breath counting? This breathing exercise is one of the easiest to do:

  • Count your breaths for a set period of time, such as 30 seconds or one minute, counting “one” to yourself as you exhale fully.
  • Repeat until the time is up, building up to more extended periods if desired. If you lose count, start over from one. This breathing exercise can help you focus on being in the present moment and reduce anxiety about what’s happening in your life or the future by bringing your attention to your breath and counting each inhalation and exhalation.

7: Visualization breathing

Our final technique is visualization breathing:

  • To get started, sit in a quiet place with your feet firmly planted on the floor and your eyes closed. Then, take some time to relax and let go of any distracting thoughts or emotions.
  • Now it’s time to breathe deeply through your nose, filling your lungs with as much air as you can handle. When you can’t take any more in, hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling through your mouth. Repeat this pattern 5-10 times until you feel relaxed and steady.
  • Once you’ve reached that state, visualize yourself sitting contentedly in a peaceful place. It could be the top of a mountain overlooking snow-capped peaks, a golden wheat field gently swaying in the breeze, or even an empty white room – just so long as there is no tension or noise present to upset your serenity.
  • Imagine yourself walking through this place slowly – taking in every detail, including objects, smells, and sounds – until you feel like you are genuinely there (even if just for a moment).
  • If any negative thoughts try to enter your mind while you are there, simply imagine them floating away on clouds into the distance until they disappear from view entirely. This may help prevent them from creeping back into your subconscious later on when they are no longer relevant to whatever task lies at hand at that particular moment in time!

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