Our fast-paced lives are filled with competing priorities, unexpected changes, and new but exciting challenges. While you might not have control over these events, you can harness healthful strategies to manage stressful situations and complex challenges.
Deep breathing exercises can help you find calm in the storm of life’s many stressors. Like other relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises help produce the body’s natural relaxation response by slowing down the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. Deep breathing, also commonly known as abdominal or belly breathing, involves taking slow, deep, controlled breaths through your nose, allowing your lungs to fully fill with air and your lower belly to rise.
Before practicing deep breathing exercises, find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Get into a comfortable position – close your eyes, lay your arms at your sides with palms up, straighten the spine, point your toes outward, and uncross your legs, keeping them slightly apart and straight if you are lying down.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
Focusing on slow, deep breathing allows you gently disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations.
- Place one hand on the upper chest and the other hand on the lower abdomen or belly
- Breathe in deeply through your nose while slowly count to five, then exhale through the nose while slowly counting to five
- Draw your attention to your hands. Make sure the hand on your lower belly is rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale
- Focus your attention on the breathe – feel the movement of air through your nostrils as you inhale and exhale
- Feel the crisp air entering in and the warming air flowing out
- Try to practice this technique for 10-20 minutes per day
- Once you have mastered this technique, try incorporating soothing images and a focus word or phrase to achieve relaxation
If you have a respiratory disease, have experienced heart failure, or have other health issues that make breathing difficult, ask your provider before engaging in this exercise.
Although it may seem unnatural to engage in deep abdominal breathing, this techniques helps us avoid shallow or chest breathing, which can increase anxiety, tension, and make you feel short of breath. Shallow breathing prevents air from exchanging well at the bottom of your lungs, potentially causing harmful particles and toxins to get trapped, which can lead to infections.