Deep Breathing Exercises For Stress Relief: Your respiratory system controls access to the fastest and most efficient tool to minimize intermittent stress, and over time this can lead to improved health.
By breathing deeply, your body activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which facilitates recuperation and recovery within the body.
How does this work? The Parasympathetic Nervous System coupled with the sympathetic nervous system constitutes our autonomous nervous system; that is, those nerves that regulate bodily functions that are not consciously controlled, such as the beating heart.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, there are many positive actions that occur in the body: our blood pressure decreases, the heart rate falls to its resting level, the level of stress hormones decreases, and the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin increases. In short – when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it increases the body’s ability to heal.
The parasympathetic nervous system functions at its best when we are sleeping; however, whilst waiting for a good night’s sleep you may practice your breathing skills to increase your wellbeing.
Conscious, aware breathing counteracts shallow, short breathing. By taking longer breaths, the heart is encouraged to slow down, your body is allowed to relax, and you become more aware of the present moment.
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This section will introduce four breathing exercises to give you the power to achieve these aims. It’s important to practice regularly in order to make deeper breathing a habit; also try to incorporate these techniques as a natural part of your daily life.
The exercises can be practiced anywhere, such as when you are on the bus, whilst waiting in a queue, or when you are taking a break from work. If you turn these exercises into an integral part of your daily life, you will eventually experience minimized levels of stress and become better at handling situations in which you at present experience a lack of control.
Take a moment to focus on your posture. Straighten your back, open up your chest, and lower your shoulders.
- Breathe into your nose whilst slowly counting to five. Expand your stomach whilst breathing in, feel how your chest expands and how your spinal cord is straightened Let your arms hang loose in order to allow your shoulders to relax. Feel how the air that you are inhaling reaches all the way down to a point below your bellybutton.
- Breathe out through your nose whilst slowly counting to ten. Feel how your stomach and chest contract and your spinal cord collapses. By counting your breaths you automatically reduce your breathing rate.
- Repeat for at least 5-10 breathing cycles.
Pursue The Breath
Sit down and close your eyes.
- Begin by focusing on your breaths. Take a moment to observe where your natural breathing occurs, but without judging whether this is right or wrong. Where does your breathing occur – in the abdomen? Nose? Mouth? When you have found your natural breathing and a sense of tranquillity, breathe in smoothly, taking slow breaths through your nose. Avoid clenching your jaw. Instead, keep your lips apart in order to decrease any tensions in your jaw.
- Whilst inhaling and counting to five, follow the breath and the energized air through your nose, feel how it flows down your throat, your abdomen, and all the way to the cells in your body. Keep the air for a short while before exhaling and feel how your body is filled with energy and oxygen.
- Now, let the breath flow back through your body and out through your nose. Slowly count to five whilst exhaling – this will provide you with a steady breathing rate.
- Repeat slowly, for at least 5-10 breathing cycles.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and down to your abdomen. Keep the air in by holding your breath.
- Release the air quickly. Simulating a deflating balloon, by letting the air rush out from your mouth.
- Repeat for at least 5-10 breathing cycles, taking your time.
- Feel how the tensions in your body gradually reduce every time you empty out the air.
Visualize The Beach
- Close your eyes and imagine that you’re lying on a deserted beach. The rays of the sun are warming your face. A light, warm breeze tousles your hair. You feel the soft sand against your skin, and the temperature is just perfect for your taste.
- Now, listen to the waves calmly rolling in towards the beach from afar.
- Let your breathing follow the rhythm of the waves. Feel how the tensions in your body gradually decrease, how the stress disappears, and your body becomes heavy and relaxed. Slowly open your eyes and hold on to this relaxed feeling throughout the day.
Summary: Deep Breathing Exercises For Stress Relief
Your respiratory system controls access to the fastest and most efficient tool to minimize intermittent stress, and over time this can lead to improved health.
When breathing deeply, you help the body activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases the body’s ability to recuperate and heal.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease, the stress hormones in your body decrease, and the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin increase.
By practicing active deep breathing in your daily life, you will increase your resilience towards stress.
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