Many people report that when they are upset, worried, scared, anxious etc they hold their breath. This is not something we do consciously but we often become aware of it after a little while. What we are less aware of is when we do it without realising it. We very often breathe too shallowly anyway and again most people aren’t aware of doing it. So a good practice to take up is to do some deep breathing every day.
Pick something that you will remember easily such as checking your breathing every time you go to the bathroom or answer the phone. Then just spend a minute or two focusing on your breathing. Breathing in and out slowly and deeply through your nose. Whenever you notice your breathing throughout your day, choose to breathe slowly and deeply.
Make it a habit to check your breath regularly throughout your day. This is an easy way to reduce stress and anxiety and increase our energy levels.
One of the first things that happens when we are stressed is that we start breathing very shallowly, only using the top of our lungs. We often don’t breathe deep enough in general and when we get stressed this becomes even worse. You can check how you are breathing by simply placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Either lay down, sit or stand comfortably as you do this. Notice whether your chest hand or your stomach hand is rising as you breathe normally. To breathe effectively your stomach area should rise more than your chest as your diaphragm expands.
To counter stress one of the simplest things you can do is to breathe! There are several different breathing exercises you can do and here is one of the simplest and most effective.
Firstly sit in a comfortable position and place your hands in your lap. You will be breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth in this exercise. Place the tip of your tongue on the soft tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there during this exercise.
Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of 4
Hold your breath for a count of 7
Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale, make a soft “whoosh” sound
This is 1 round. Repeat again 3 times, making a total of 4 rounds
The important thing is the ratio of 4:7:8. The out breath is twice as long as the in breath. You can make the breaths shorter, ensuring you stick to the ratio. Ensure you only do 4 breaths each time you practice this exercise initially. With time you can increase it to 8 breaths.
This exercise has a natural calming and tranquilizing effect on the body. Use it whenever you feel stressed, feel tension in your body, before you react to a situation and in bed to help you go to sleep. It is a quick and effective exercise to do and can be done anywhere.
“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.” Andrew Weil, M.D
Repeat this exercise at least twice a day and whenever you feel you need it.