Stress and anxiety are common problems that can affect both physical and mental health. When we’re stressed or anxious, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode, which can cause a number of physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and muscle tension. One of the most effective ways to combat stress and anxiety is through breathing exercises. In this guide, we will discuss 7 breathing techniques that can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “belly breathing,” is a technique that focuses on breathing deeply into the diaphragm, rather than shallow breathing into the chest. To perform diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your abdomen to fall. Repeat for several minutes, focusing on the movement of your abdomen.
- 4-7-8 Breathing The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a simple and effective way to calm the mind and promote relaxation. To perform 4-7-8 breathing, breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat the cycle for several minutes, or as needed.
- Box Breathing Box breathing, also known as “square breathing,” is a technique that can help to regulate the breath and calm the mind. To perform box breathing, breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and hold your breath again for a count of 4. Repeat the cycle for several minutes, or as needed.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing Alternate nostril breathing is a technique that can help to balance the breath and promote relaxation. To perform alternate nostril breathing, hold your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through your right nostril. Then breathe in through your right nostril, close it with your thumb, and exhale through your left nostril. Repeat the cycle for several minutes, or as needed.
- Progressive Relaxation Progressive relaxation is a technique that can help to release muscle tension and promote relaxation. To perform progressive relaxation, start by tensing the muscles in your feet and toes, hold for a few seconds, then release. Move up through your body, tensing and releasing the muscles in your legs, stomach, chest, arms, and face. Repeat the cycle for several minutes, or as needed.
- Guided Imagery Guided imagery is a technique that involves using your imagination to visualize a peaceful and calming scene. This can help to relax the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. To perform guided imagery, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, such as a beach, forest, or meadow. See the colors, feel the textures, and hear the sounds of this place. Spend several minutes in this place, or as needed.
- Mindfulness Meditation Mindfulness meditation is a technique that can help to focus the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. To perform mindfulness meditation, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your body.