We all have stress in our lives - sometimes it feels that stress is inevitable. Depending on the situation, stress can creep up on you at the most unexpected times and wreak havoc on your body and mind.
Your breath, and the way you breath, can help you with pretty much every aspect of managing stress and lowering anxiety.
Your breath can help you to bring your attention back to the present moment, lower your heart rate and reduce cortisol levels, increase your energy levels, and much more.
Breathing is one of the few things we do without any effort. We don’t have to think about it — it just happens. And yet, many of us don’t breathe properly. We are often stressed and breathe quickly and shallowly. Or, we are tired and breathing slowly and deeply. Both of these types of breathing can lead to stress.
The trick to reducing stress is to regulate your breathing so that it is slow and deep. By doing so, you will be able to relax more quickly and reduce your stress.
Paying attention to your breathing can help you regulate your breathing. It is the best way to calm your body and mind. So, if you want to reduce your stress, start by paying attention to your breath.
Breathing and the Brain
Studies have shown that, when practiced regularly, certain breathing practices can significantly reduce anxiety and depression in the brain. In fact, some studies have shown that breathwork can have the same effect as taking antidepressants.
When you breathe, you’re bringing more oxygen to your brain. And just as with an antidepressant, the extra oxygen has a soothing effect on your brain. It helps to reduce your cortisol levels, and that in turn helps to reduce your anxiety and depression.
In fact, breathing is the most important thing you can do for your brain. For your brain to work properly, it needs oxygen. Your brain uses 20% of your body’s oxygen just to function. So, if you’re not breathing enough or properly, your brain is going to feel the effects. Your breath isn’t just important for your brain – it’s essential.
Breathing and the Body
The physical effects of breathing correctly on the body can include improved respiration, increased oxygen intake, improved circulation, improved heart rate and blood pressure, improved digestion, and improved energy levels.
Additionally, breathing correctly can help to reduce stress and tension, improve mental clarity, and improve overall well-being. Correct breathing can also help to reduce pain and inflammation and help the body to heal more quickly.
How I Use Breathwork for Anxiety and Stress
Breathwork is powerful. I like to use breathwork as a grounding and presence exercise because it helps bring you come back into the present moment, and quickly shows you where you're at emotionally and physically (usually holding their breath, or breathing in a really shallow manner).
The simple act of breathing slowly and deeply is scientifically proven to decrease the effects of stress, create coherence between the heart and brain, and help you regulate their sympathetic nervous system.
At the same time, regulating your breath helps you make better decisions and decreases stress, anxiety and impulsivity. The four breathwork techniques that I find to be the most useful for this are the 4-4-8 technique and belly breathing. Here’s how each of these techniques work:
- Sit up with your spine completely straight
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four (4)
- Hold your breath for a count of four (4)
- Release your breath through your mouth with a wooshing sound for a count of 8
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
- Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel the hand on your belly slowly start to rise
- Breathe out through pursed lips so you can hear your breath leave you while also bringing gentle awareness to your hands collapsing
- Repeat 7-10 times
Your breathing can also be a powerful tool for managing anxiety and stress — even if these feelings haven’t fully taken hold yet. So don’t be afraid to take some time to explore breathwork and breathing techniques that can help your mind and body. Using breathwork to ground and center isn’t just something that has to be done in the herd, it can be anywhere. Which technique resonates best with you.
Try this technique if you are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, want to regulate stress in the body, and to aid in better and deeper sleep patterns.
- Place a hand on your belly & a hand on your chest.
- Slowly breathe into your belly through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Practice this for 7-15 rounds of breath.
When you are in a highly anxious state, your natural inclination is to calm down. You want to start with a calming breath. This is a deeper experience than the LSD technique.
- Inhale in and out through your nose
- Hold the breath on the exhale
- Pinch your nose and hold for 5 seconds
- Remove your fingers
- Breathe through the nose for 10 seconds
- Naturally exhale out
- Pinch your nose for 5 seconds
- Naturally exhale out
Release and repeat this for up to 15 minutes.
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