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Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

Breathing exercises are one of the easiest methods of stress relief available to you, its free, you don’t need any equipment and it can be done anywhere.

It is strange to think that we have to learn how to breathe correctly; after all breathing should come naturally to all of us.

However when we are stressed we begin to breath differently, this is our body going into the fight or flight mode i.e. preparing us to flee or to have the energy and stamina to fight.

This is great if we are actually in danger but as a general rule our stress is not caused by life threatening situations.

Stress and Breathing

Breathing correctly is important for our general health and also in the reduction of the effects of stress on our lives.

When we are stressed we tend to breathe from our upper chest whereas normal breathing should take place lower down in our abdomen.

Stress can become so much part of our every day lives that we actually get into the habit of breathing incorrectly.

We then have to learn how to breathe properly again to attempt the reduction of our stress levels.

Signs of Stressed Breathing

  • Shallow breathing from the chest area
  • Shoulders rise significantly towards ears
  • Irregular breathing pattern with many sighs
  • Air gulping

The Affects of Breathing Incorrectly

When we do not breathe correctly a chain reaction begins within our bodies which can make us feel unwell or even panicky. Here is the chain reaction:

  • We eliminate too much carbon dioxide
  • Our blood becomes too alkaline
  • Blood vessels in the brain narrow
  • Oxygen is reduced in the brain
  • Palpitations, dizziness, chest pains or faintness occur
  • Panic attacks occur
  • We breathe even faster and hyperventilate

Breathing Exercises

Although the above signs of irregular breathing are mainly in connection with stress causing us to hyperventilate. Stress can also get us into the habit of breathing from the chest area most of the time rather than from the abdomen. By learning to breathe correctly again we can in fact reduce the effects of stress and prevent the onset of panic attacks and hyperventilation.

Breathing exercises can also be used when panic does start to take control and by regulating the breathing will prevent the panic attack occurring or shortening its length. You can’t be relaxed and have a panic attack at the same time.

Healthy Breathing Exercises

This exercise helps you to notice where you are breathing from and whether or not you need to carry out some breathing exercises to regulate your breathing.

  • Sit in a comfortable quite place
  • Notice if you are breathing incorrectly by placing one hand on your upper chest and one on your abdomen. And breathe slowly and normally.
  • If you notice that your chest is moving rather than your abdomen then this is a sign of stress and incorrect breathing

Exercise For Relaxation When Stressed

  • Sit with your feet flat on the ground and your arms hanging loosely by your side
  • Breath in slowly and deeply, noticing the rise of your abdomen rather than your chest for the count of three.
  • When your lungs are full, breath out slowly not forcibly. Expel as much of the air from your lungs as possible. Count to four whilst doing this.
  • Repeat this exercise five times, you should not hold your breath it should be a slow smooth process. Use the counts to keep the rhythm.

Tips To Help With This Exercise

  • Where loose clothing
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Keep the breathing in rhythm in 1, 2, 3, out, 1, 2, 3, 4 all the out breath should always be slightly longer.

Exercise When Panic Starts To Take Hold

  • Where ever you are, say “calm” quietly and slowly to yourself
  • Breathe out deeply then breathe in slowly, hold this breath for the count of three
  • Breathe out gently releasing the tension in the rest of your body as you do so.
  • Continue to breathe normally, saying “Calm” to yourself and trying to release the tension in your body as you do so.

The breathing should help to relax you, you cannot panic and be relaxed at the same time.

Here is a video to help you through or prevent a panic attack



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