Stress is an inevitable part of life. From work to relationships, sometimes there’s no avoiding it. Although we can’t do much to avoid it completely, we can take a few steps towards controlling it. The internet will show you several ways to combat stress, however, we explain one method that has been tried and tested for ages – deep breathing. Breathing is an automatic function and when stressed, one can suffer from laboured breathing and even hyperventilation. By focusing on deep breathing, we can manage stress and its negative side effects too.
Breathing is an automatic function and when stressed, one can suffer from laboured breathing and even hyperventilation. By focusing on deep breathing, we can manage stress and its negative side effects too.
Breathing and stress
As you probably already know, the primary function of breathing is getting oxygen into the body and removing carbon dioxide. The change caused by stressed breathing can hamper the intake of oxygen and can cause anxiety, thereby making the physical symptoms of stress even worse. Controlling your breathing can help to decrease some of these symptoms.
Controlled breathing can benefit you by:
- lowering your blood pressure;
- lowering your heart rate;
- reducing stress hormones;
- balancing out levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide; and
- improving your immune system.
There are different breathing exercises and techniques to relax. All you need is a quiet, relaxed environment where you won’t be disturbed for at least 10 to 20 minutes.
1. Equal breathing
This is one of the easiest breathing exercises and can be done anywhere and anytime. To begin, inhale for a count of four and exhale for the same count. This simple technique calms the nervous system, increases focus and reduces stress.
2. Pythagorean breathing
Pythagorean breathing is an easy way to relax, be present in the moment and de-stress. Inhale slowly for five seconds, hold the breath in for three seconds and finally exhale slowly for four seconds. Initially, you may need a clock to time yourself, but you’ll soon get used to it. There’s no need to unnecessarily prolong the duration between breaths.
3. Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing infuses a sense of calm and centred awareness on the individual if practised regularly. Start by sitting comfortably. Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale through your left. At the peak of the inhalation cut off the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Performing this every morning is sure to set a right tone to your day.
4. Abdominal breathing
Abdominal breathing does not only help in reducing stress, it’s also proven to help reduce high blood pressure. The technique used is to take deeper breathes so it seems like the air is pushed down to your abdomen instead of stopping at your lungs. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward and expands your lungs, filling them with air. When your exhale, the diaphragm muscles relax and move upwards, which drives air out of the lungs.
When performing this exercise put one hand on your chest and another on your stomach. Take six to ten breaths a minute, long and deep, enough to ensure that your lungs expand and stretch your diaphragm. The hand on your chest should not move when you inhale and exhale, but on the other hand, the hand on your abdomen should move in time with your breathing.