Breathe: Relieve Your Stress in Minutes!
Stress it is all around us every day. Even on great days, things happen. We’re in a rush, rush world where we often have too much going on, get too little sleep and need to handle life’s ups and downs. We can all use quick, easy techniques to help us de-stress. Enter breathing - it takes no extra tools or equipment, you can do it anywhere and it only takes minutes. All you need is a good set of lungs!
Breathing Techniques to Help You Relax
Under pressure? Don’t wait until you feel like you might explode or completely shut down to try using breath to relieve the stress. While there are many studies published on the health benefits of controlled breathing, according to the article “Diaphragmatic Breathing,” by the Mayo Clinic, “The benefits of deep breathing extend beyond in-the-moment stress relief. Many studies have found that deep, yogic breathing helps balance the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions, such as temperature control and bladder function. This may help ease symptoms of stress-related disorders and mental health conditions such as anxiety, general stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Breathing techniques are easy to learn and most can be done anywhere - commuting to work, in the office or at home. Here are two favorite methods to get you started:
- Belly or Abdominal Breathing – sitting or lying down in a comfortable position, one hand on your belly just below the ribs and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose, your belly should push your hand out and your chest should not move. Let the breath out through your lips (your belly should go in). Do this slowly three to five times.
- 4-7-8 Breathing – follow the positions of your body and hands and the breathing steps in belly breathing (above) but add counting. Breathe in silently to the count of 4. Then hold your breath for the count of 7. Then breathe out to the count of 8. Repeat this exercise three to five times. You should feel calmer at the end.
Or Opt for a Timeless Lesson from the Yogis - the Practice of Pranayama
Yoga has long-used breath to both relax the body and mind while expanding mindful awareness of the body. Equal breathing or Sama Vritti Pranayama is one of the most fundamental forms of pranayama (the regulation of breath through specific techniques). It's easy to do anywhere, here's how:
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position (such as easy pose). Alternatively, you can lie on your back or sit in a chair. Close your eyes and pay attention to your natural breath for 5 to 10 breaths. Then inhale to the count of four (filling your lungs). Take a moment to note the feeling of your full lungs. Next, exhale to the count of four (completely emptying your lungs). Take a moment to note the feeling of your empty lungs. Continue this exercise a few times, making sure to match the length of your inhales and exhales. You can advance the technique by extending the count for each breath beyond four. Do this exercise for at least five minutes.
Next time you feel stressed, take a moment and practice deep breathing, or better yet, start an on-going practice as part of your personalized wellness self-care in 2018.