Stress is a normal part of life for a lot of people, however, continuous stress can have negative effects on your mental health and if left unchecked, could lead to problems including anxiety and depression. If you feel the weight of the day starting to drag you down, we’ve found some excellent breathing exercises to ground you and help reduce the physical symptoms of stress such as increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
First Try : NHS Recommended Breathing Exercise
This breathing exercise comes recommended from the National Health Service in the UK and can be used wherever and whenever stress overwhelms you. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and it’s also recommended to make this breathing exercise part of a daily habit to keep you clear-minded and calm.
***Make sure you are completely comfortable, loosening tight clothing or changing into less restrictive clothing where necessary.***
- Stand relaxed with your arms loose by your sides, or if sitting, with your arms on the chair arms – if lying down, put your arms down by your side, palms up. Ideally, keep your feet flat on the floor at hip-width apart, or if lying down, keep your legs straight or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Take deep breaths in through your nose, filling your lungs to a comfortable maximum, then without pause, exhale through your mouth. It can be helpful to count as you breathe in, for example, counting up to five, then counting down from five as you exhale.
- Continue to repeat this breathing pattern for up to five minutes or until you feel calm. As you perform the exercise you will notice your heart rate dropping and experience a sense of calm sweeping through your body.
Second Try : Belly Breathing
Belly breathing forms the basis of many more complicated breathing exercises and focuses on controlling your breathing and the muscles it stretches. You start belly breathing exercises with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just under your ribs.
- Make sure you are sitting or lying flat in a comfortable position before you begin and put your hands in place.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to expand, pushing your hand out but keeping your chest and hand on your chest in place.
- After drawing in the maximum amount of air you can comfortably inhale, purse your lips as though to whistle and then exhale through your mouth, pushing all the air out gently with your hand.
- Repeat the exercise as needed until you feel more relaxed.
Belly breathing focuses the mind away from your stress points and offers an easy way to relax when stress and anxious thoughts start to take hold.
Third Try : Roll Breathing
Roll breathing is a technique that trains you to gain a sharper focus on the rhythms of your breathing; it can help you regain control when your emotions become too overwhelming. To practice performing the roll breathing technique, you will want to start by lying on your back with your knees bent.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, then inhale through your nose until your stomach has fully expanded, but ensuring you keep your chest still. Exhale through your mouth without holding your breath, then repeat this exercise 5-10 times.
- After repeating the first part of the roll breathing exercise, begin to inhale first into your lower lungs, expanding your stomach, and then into upper chest, feeling the hand on your chest rise. As you exhale, allow the air to leave your lower lungs first, using the hand on your stomach to gently push the air from your system, before emptying the air from your upper lungs.
- Repeat this exercise for up to five minutes or until you feel the tension release throughout your body and your heart rate slow.
It’s common for people first starting out with the roll breathing technique to feel lightheaded or dizzy, so it’s important to take it easy when practising this technique and learn gradually before using it out and about.
Putting Breathing Exercises into Practice
If you are someone who finds it difficult to relax when your emotions are running high, these breathing exercises can help to calm you down and get back in control before your stress overwhelms you. It’s always best to practice new calming techniques in private or add them to your morning routine before using them in tense situations so you can understand how they make you feel and if they work for you.