Guide to Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

If you are on a mission to relieve stress, you have made the first most important step: seeking out help. Stress can impact just about every area of your life and should not be ignored. It can affect you mentally and emotionally by making it hard to focus and concentrate, taking away from productivity, and getting in the way of friendships and relationships. Physically it also impacts you by causing headaches, stomach and digestive problems, insomnia, and so much more.

Now that you know why you need to relieve your stress, you can start looking to natural remedies, such as with breathing exercises. This lets you practice deep breathing that can help calm and relax you, therefore helping you to reduce your stress. These same breathing exercises also work very well with anxiety.

Keep reading to get some helpful tips for using breathing exercises to relieve your stress.

Find a Quiet Place to Breathe

When you want to practice breathing exercises, it is best that you begin in a quiet place without distractions. Eventually, you will be able to do them anywhere, but it is good to start here in the beginning. It can be your office with the door shut or at the kitchen table when you wake up early in the morning before everyone else. Give yourself at least a few minutes a day to practice them.

Focus Only on Your Breathing

When you are practicing your breathing, you focus only on the breaths you inhale and exhale. Sit in a comfortable position and begin inhaling deeply, concentrating on that breath and how it feels in your lungs. Hold for a few seconds and feel the sensations, then exhale slowly and embrace those sensations as well. Keep breathing in and out, deeply and with purpose.

Set a Timer

There are a few ways to do this, but when practicing your breathing exercises, it sometimes helps to set a timer. That way, you aren’t trying to keep track of the number of times you inhale and exhale, and instead can put your full concentration on just the breathing.

Try This Multiple Times a Day

You may only have a few minutes a day, but if you can, try to do this more than once a day. You can try them anytime that you get. It may in the car as you leave work or during your lunch break as you enjoy a coffee. Anytime at all.

Breathing Techniques and Mindfulness

This is a perfect time to also be more Mindful. As you are practicing your breathing techniques allow yourself to naturally become more aware of your surroundings and your body. Really try and concentrate on what is happening right now and not what happened earlier in the day or what is happening later. As you are taking your deep breaths give yourself that moment to fully immerse yourself in your breathing.

Types of Breathing Techniques

Pursed Lip Breathing

This simple breathing technique makes you slow down your pace of breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. You can practice pursed lip breathing at any time. It may be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing. Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin in order to correctly learn the breathing pattern. To do it:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
  3. Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
  4. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Belly breathing can help you use your diaphragm properly. Do belly breathing exercises when you’re feeling relaxed and rested. Practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times per day. When you begin you may feel tired, but over time the technique should become easier and should feel more natural. To do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
  2. You may place a pillow under your knees for support.
  3. Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  4. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
  5. Keep your other hand as still as possible.
  6. Exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your stomach muscles, keeping your upper hand completely still.

You can place a book on your abdomen to make the exercise more difficult. Once you learn how to do belly breathing lying down you can increase the difficulty by trying it while sitting in a chair. You can then practice the technique while performing your daily activities.

Breath Focus Technique

This deep breathing technique uses imagery or focus words and phrases. You can choose a focus word that makes you smile, feel relaxed, or that is simply neutral to think about. Examples include peace, let go, or relax, but it can be any word that suits you to focus on and repeat through your practice.As you build up your breath focus practice you can start with a 10-minute session. Gradually increase the duration until your sessions are at least 20 minutes. To do it:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.
  2. Bring your awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you’re breathing.
  3. Alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times. Notice any differences between normal breathing and deep breathing. Notice how your abdomen expands with deep inhalations.
  4. Note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing.
  5. Practice your deep breathing for a few minutes.
  6. Place one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed, and notice how it rises with each inhale and falls with each exhale.
  7. Let out a loud sigh with each exhale.
  8. Begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation.
  9. You can imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body. Mentally say, “Inhaling peace and calm.”
  10. Imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety. You can say to yourself, “Exhaling tension and anxiety.”

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing helps to relieve shortness of breath by preventing air from getting trapped in your lungs and helping you to breathe in more fresh air. It may help you to feel more relaxed and centred. To do this:

  1. While standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand.
  2. Take a deep inhalation through your nose.
  3. Retain your breath for a count of 5.
  4. Slowly release your breath by exhaling through your nose.

There are many different types of breathing techniques. I find myself doing Deep Breathing and also simply following a 4-7-8 relaxing breathing pattern. This is probably my favourite and one I find most benefit from for me.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique (Relaxing Breathing)

The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires a person to focus on taking a long, deep breath in and out. Rhythmic breathing is a core part of many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation.It can help with;

  • reducing anxiety
  • helping a person get to sleep
  • managing cravings
  • controlling or reducing anger responses

Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern;

  • empty the lungs of air
  • breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
  • hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
  • exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
  • repeat the cycle up to 4 times

Try out some breathing techniques and find one that works for you. It is so useful to have something to use that you know works and you can utilise literally anywhere any time.
Again, as I have stated, it’s also such a good chance to practice Mindfulness as well and especially Mindful Meditation which involves many breathing techniques anyway. Often these are guided so it makes it even easier to follow.
Thanks for finding out about different breathing techniques and I hope they help you deal with life struggles and become a little more relaxed.