Let's All Take a Breath: How Breathing (Correctly) Can Decrease Your Stress Levels

Don't you just hate when people tell you to, "Just relax" or "Take a deep breath"? It is so much easier said than done. But, believe it or not, deep breathing -- when done correctly-- can actually decrease your stress and anxiety levels.

 

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WHAT IT IS

Diaphragmatic Breathing (AKA Deep Breathing) is a technique that helps you slow down your breathing when you are feeling anxious or stressed. 

HOW IT HELPS

The way we breathe is strongly linked to the way we feel. When we are relaxed, we breathe slowly. However, when we are anxious, we tend to take quick, short, and shallow breaths. This can lead to racing heart, dizziness, headaches, and…more anxiety. Learning to control and slow down your breath through diaphragmatic breathing promotes a greater sense of relaxation and, in turn, can help to lower your overall levels of anxiety.

HOW IT WORKS

1. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed.

2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

3. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand (for about four seconds). The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

4. Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds

5. Exhale slowly through the mouth for four seconds. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Rules of Practice

  • Try diaphragmatic breathing for at least five minutes twice a day.
  • You do not need to be feeling anxious to practice – in fact, at first you should practice while feeling relatively calm. You need to be comfortable breathing this way when feeling calm, before you can feel comfortable doing it when anxious.
  • Once you are comfortable with this technique, you can start using it in situations that cause anxiety.

To Read More About Deep Breathing, check out a recent article from GQ.

Jennifer Welbel