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The 3 Most Effective Breathing Exercises To Combat Stress

“Just Breathe” may sound like an infuriating suggestion when you are feeling overwhelmed. But when done correctly, breathing may be the key to finally getting a handle on your stress.




Stress is typically accompanied by fast, shallow breathing, which can make a stress reaction even worse. Studies have shown that deep breathing exercises can help combat stress significantly¹ and may also have a positive impact on depression², heart rate, and blood pressure³. When practicing deep breathing, you can see your stomach expanding instead of your chest⁴. This article details 3 of the most effective deep breathing exercises and exactly how to do them.



Pursed Lips Breathing

This breathing exercise helps to slow your breathing rate and allows you to take in more oxygen. Not only can this exercise help with anxiety, but it may also help you breathe more easily during exercise when done before or after physical exertion.⁵

  1. Inhale through your nose for 2 seconds

  2. Purse your lips as though you were blowing out a candle

  3. Exhale through your pursed lips for 4–6 seconds

  4. Repeat several times until you feel your breath slow down⁶


Square Breathing

For long term practice, begin each breath at 4 seconds, and gradually increase the breath length.

  1. Sit upright with your back straight

  2. Inhale for 4 seconds

  3. Hold your breath for 4 seconds

  4. Exhale four 4 seconds

  5. Hold your breath for 4 seconds

  6. Repeat⁷


4–7–8 Breathing

  1. Sit upright with your back straight

  2. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, closer to your teeth

  3. With pursed lips, as though you were blowing out a candle, exhale making a whoosh sound

  4. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds

  5. Hold your breath for 7 seconds

  6. Exhale completely through pursed lips for 8 seconds, again making a whoosh sound

  7. Repeat three more times⁸


Using these simple techniques, you can begin to use your breath to lessen your stress responses. If you are pregnant or suffer from health problems, consult your doctor before trying any deep breathing exercises.


Endnotes

  1. Casey, A., Tisdale, F., Jonikas, J., & Cook, J. (1991). Methods for Managing Stress in the Workplace: Coping Effectively on the Job.

  2. Franzblau, S. H., Echevarria, S., Smith, M., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (2008). A preliminary investigation of the effects of giving testimony and learning yogic breathing techniques on battered women’s feelings of depression. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(12), 1800–1808. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260508314329

  3. Liza Varvogli , & Christina Darviri. (2011). Stress Management Techniques: Evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal, 5(2), 74–89.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Cabral, L. F., D’Elia, T. D. C., Marins, D. D. S., Zin, W. A., & Guimarães, F. S. (2015). Pursed lip breathing improves exercise tolerance in COPD: A randomized crossover study. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, 51(1), 79–88.

  6. Miami, C. F. 3300 P. de L. B. (n.d.). Copd breathing exercises and techniques for copd. Retrieved 9 July 2020, from https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Person-with-COPD/Breathing-Exercises-for-COPD.aspx

  7. Square breathing | yoga i and ii. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 July 2020, from https://yoga.dasa.ncsu.edu/breathing-techniques/square-breathing/

  8. Weill, A. (2010). 4 -7- 8 Breath Relaxation Exercise. Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.