Deep Breathing to Reduce Stress


Breathing techniques are one example of a coping skill for stress and anxiety.

In the previous months we’ve talked about different forms of anxiety as well as the importance of getting quality sleep on a regular, nightly basis.  This week, we’re going to explore deep breathing techniques which have helped many experience reduced anxiety and settling down in order to get to sleep.  (It’s important to note that there aren’t any clinical studies that we are aware of regarding deep breathing and its connection with anxiety).

We’ll also look at some of the benefits that many experience from using such techniques beyond the immediate reduction in anxiety and the production of calm, peaceful feelings.  That’s right!  You can help promote calm, peaceful feelings whenever you want to just by practicing some of these exercises.

Different Deep Breathing Techniques

  • Hold Your Breath:  Don’t hold it for too long though!  Breathe in through your nose for three seconds, hold your breath for three seconds, and exhale through your nose for three seconds.  Wait another three seconds before taking another breath.  Start out by just doing this three times.  Some yoga teachers use a variation of this exercise to help focus and produce calm during their practice.  Also, if you have trouble sleeping due to racing thoughts, overstimulation, or anxiety, using this technique can help take your mind off of those things and focus it on the simplicity of breathing.
  • Qi Gong:  Literally translated from Chinese to “cultivating energy.”  Building on the previously mentioned technique, this one emphasizes balance and left-right brain connection by only breathing in one nostril at a time.  Start by using your right thumb to hold your right nostril.  Breath in for three seconds and hold your breath for three seconds.  While holding your breath, use the ring finger of your right hand to hold down the left nostril and breathe out for three seconds.  Repeat.  There are a lot of other variations of deep breathing called “Qi Gong” as well as it refers to ancient Chinese practice of using specific body positions and breathing to cultivate inner health.  This method is also said to help with allergies.
  • Breath of Joy:  Sounds a little silly but it’s based off of yoga related practices for gathering energy and alertness.  Start by inhaling with a deep breath while standing up straight and raising your arms.  Next, quickly squat and swing your arms down while forcefully breathing out.  This technique isn’t for the faint of heart though, if you do have heart problems or experience light-headedness, headaches, or eye injuries you should not practice this one.  Practicing this technique can help promote clarity, alertness, and a temporary burst of energy–even more so than the Qi Gong technique.

Build these into your daily routines or add them in whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious.  Doing one first thing in the morning can help get you going and doing another set of deep breathing exercises at night can help make sure you fall asleep feeling good about the end of the day and, most importantly, relaxed.