Take a Breather: 3 Ways to Use Your Breathing to Reduce Daily Stress and Anxiety

Modern life is constantly moving. There will always be tasks to complete, errands to run, and calls to answer. It gets overwhelming. 

Did you know there’s a stress-busting solution at your disposal every minute? It’s an activity you’ve already mastered: breathing.

Practicing what’s known as “breathwork” can help you boost your confidence, reduce stress, strengthen immunity, process emotions, improve focus, and relax. We're not just talking about normal breathing; we're talking about using your breath in a deliberate way to influence your mind and body.

What is breathwork?

Breathwork refers to different types of breathing exercises or techniques. Doctors Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg wrote a book in 2012 called The Healing Power of the Breath. In it, they expound on the credibility of breathwork as a tool for healing and reducing stress. 

"Studies are revealing that, by changing the patterns of breathing, it is possible to restore balance to the stress response systems, calm an agitated mind, relieve symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), improve physical health and endurance, elevate performance, and enhance relationships."

Breathwork can bring immediate relief when you are feeling overwhelmed or just off somehow. You can practice it for as little or as long as you need and try it anywhere: at home, in the office, in your car, etc. 

How do you practice breathwork?

There are many different techniques and types of breathwork, so feel free to try a few variations and personalize it. There aren't many rules to follow, and there isn't one perfect way to do it. We identified three techniques that you can practice today based on what you need. 

Need an energy boost? Try box breathing. 

Box breathing is a popular technique among athletes, U.S. Navy SEALs, and nurses that can increase concentration while reducing stress. 

Here's how to do it:

  • Sit upright in a comfortable chair in a quiet area.
  • Plant your feet flat on the floor and keep your hands relaxed in your lap. (Your posture is important.)
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • Slowly inhale through your nose to the count of four. Make sure to completely fill your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for a slow count of four. 
  • Exhale through your mouth to the count of four. 
  • Hold your breath for a slow count of four. 

Repeat this process for four cycles, bringing conscious awareness to the air entering and leaving your body. Be intentional and enjoy each inhale and exhale. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Try 4-7-8 breathing. 

Described as a "natural tranquilizer for the nervous system" by its founder Dr. Andrew Weil, this technique is based on an ancient yoga technique called pranayama. It can help you control your breathing, relax your body, and fall asleep faster.

Here's how to do it:

  • Sit or lie down somewhere that is comfortable and where you can practice good posture. (If you are trying to fall asleep, lying down is ideal.)
  • Rest the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth and up against the roof of your mouth. (Try to keep your tongue here for the entire practice.)
  • The following steps should take place during one cycle of breath:
    • Part your lips and exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound. 
    • Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose to the count of the four. 
    • Hold your breath for seven seconds. (This is the most critical part of the cycle.)
    • Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds while making a whooshing sound.

Repeat the cycle four times. As you continue to practice, you can increase to repeating for eight cycles. 

Feeling anxious? Try diaphragmatic breathing.

This breathing method is great for reducing fear and tension while also strengthening the diaphragm, which is an important muscle used for breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is the basis for most relaxation and meditation techniques and can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and regulate other bodily processes.

Here's how to do it:

  • Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where you can relax your shoulders and practice good posture. 
  • Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. 
  • Inhale through your nose for two seconds. Feel the air enter your abdomen, causing your stomach to move outward (your chest should remain still). 
  • Purse your lips (image you are drinking through a straw) and exhale slowly for two seconds while gently pressing on your stomach. 

Repeat this process as many times as you like. 

Breathwork can be an easy way to relieve stress and anxiety and find the energy and confidence you need. So please take a breather every day to get the most from your body, mind, and life.

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