I’m sure there have been at least a couple times in your life when you were in a stressful situation and someone gave you this advice: Just take a deep breath. This is a common saying for a reason – breathing deep does in fact help to reduce stress. When you breathe deeply, you are in effect telling your brain to relax, and your brain in turn tells your body to take a chill pill. As a result, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and heavy breathing all diminish with deep breathing.
When you think about the act of breathing deeply, you might think this simply means expanding the chest as you draw in a large, deep breath. However, this is not relaxed breathing; in fact, this method can actually constrict your lungs, which can increase tension rather than diminish it. To engage in true deep, relaxed breathing, try imagining an infant sleeping — or if you’re able to observe one, even better. Notice the baby’s belly rise and fall with each breath. As adults, years of sucking in our guts have led us to breathe primarily with our chests. What babies innately know is that the beauty of breathing is in the belly.
How to Breathe Deeply
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
- When inhaling, the belly hand should rise higher than the chest hand. This insures the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
- Inhale SLOWLY through your nose and hold your breath for a few seconds.
- SLOWLY exhale through your mouth. As the air is released, and your stomach falls, gently contract your stomach to completely empty the air from the lungs. Respirations are deepened not by inhaling more air but by completely exhaling it.
- Repeat the cycle for several deep breaths, and try to breathe at a rate of one inhale/exhale for about 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute).
Practice deep breathing throughout the day to get the full benefits, and hopefully soon enough you’ll find that you are reducing some serious stress. Whether you are a caretaker or you just have a lot on your mind, we all have stress that pops up in our lives. Deep breathing can help ease this day-to-day stress – so remember: take a deep breath!
Information taken from:
Student Health & Counseling Services at Northeastern Illinois University